A partnership between the Arts & Humanities Alliance (AHA!) of Jefferson County and Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority is expected to give new meaning to the definition of a “traveling exhibit.”
Transit Authority Executive Director Cheryl L. Keyrouze announced at a planning session with community stakeholders Wednesday about plans for mural art to be painted this spring on one of the agency’s buses that serves Jefferson County.
Given that raising local money is the public transit agency’s biggest challenge, Keyrouze welcomed the partnership, which she said might have been unthinkable and unlikely to some.
While the Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority — known as PanTran — should receive twice as much federal funding due to the region’s population growth, all of the money requires local matching dollars, according to Keyrouze.
Federal dollars used for capital expenses and planning costs require a 20 percent match, and operation expenditures require 50 percent, Keyrouze said. The Transit Authority’s current $1.3 million budget includes a total of about $127,000 in local government allocations, $576,000 in contract revenue and about $430,000 in grant money, according to the agency’s budget document.
The Transit Authority’s Federal Transit Administration’s allocation in the previous fiscal year was $352,634, but given the U.S. Census data from 2010, the agency is expecting an additional $379,000 to serve Berkeley and Jefferson counties, according to Keyrouze.
“It’s not a guaranteed figure, it could go down a little bit,” Keyrouze said.
With the additional funding, Keyrouze said she would like to address an issue in Martinsburg’s north end where riders have to wait as much as 90 minutes to catch the next bus if they miss one they planned to ride.
The Transit Authority’s 28 drivers provided service to about 175,000 riders in 2011-12, according to statistics Keyrouze released Wednesday.
The number of riders has steadily increased since 2008-09 when the public transit agency counted about 160,000 riders.
The Transit Authority’s current budget lists funding allocations from both Berkeley and Jefferson county governments as well as all of the municipalities in both counties except for Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Hedgesville, W.Va.
The public transit also has contracts to provide various levels of service for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the MARC commuter train system, Shepherd University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
In the planning session Wednesday, community stakeholders, including government officials and business leaders, were asked to compile what they changes they would like to see in transit services provided, both long and short term.
Some suggestions included the addition of shuttle connections for commuters traveling into Maryland to get to the Washington-Baltimore area, tourist shuttles for events like the Contemporary American Theater Festival, installing bicycle racks on buses and development of a smart phone app for the public transit agency to make it easier for riders to plan their trip. Improvements to the timeliness of existing service, as well as expanding services to higher growth areas in the community and large employers, also were suggested.
Keyrouze told stakeholders that some of the suggestions they presented during Wednesday’s workshop are already being worked on, but the fact that they were mentioned shows the need for the transit authority to do a better job with public relations.
Keyrouze said she intends to continue to reach out to the community to gather input from the public and the riders in the effort to develop an extensive plan for the agency, which she acknowledged has seen significant turnover in leadership.
There have been three directors in six years, Keyrouze said.
Since being hired three months ago, Keyrouze said she has ridden a couple of the bus routes and intends to ride them all.
Only a few of the more than 20 people who took part in Wednesday’s planning session raised their hand when one stakeholder asked the group if they had ever used the public transit service.