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Five-county transportation corridor to help disabled, elderly across Ohio

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A program in Trumbull County is being looked at as a model to create a transportation corridor for Trumbull, Ashtabula, Mahoning, Columbiana and Lake counties in Ohio. 

Democratic State Senator Sean O'Brien and Republican State Senator Michael Rulli will introduce an amendment by the end of this month in a bipartisan transportation budget bill.

"This pilot program will enable all 88 counties to use funds, whether they are from a senior levy, Jobs and Family Services, veterans and any different group so that they can get matching federal funds for transportation," said Senator O'Brien. "We have seen results where it costs Trumbull County no money from its general fund to have transportation for those who need it the most, the elderly, veterans groups, people with disabilities and people who can not drive. We will use WRTA for fixed routes and other entities to get people to the fixed routes.  If you are living in Ashtabula and you need to get to YSU  to go to school, you will be able to get a ride from your home to a fixed location, then WRTA will pick you up and take you to YSU. If you live in rural areas not covered by the public transportation system you can use this to get to a store, or the mall.  This will take levy money already passed and use that money to get more money from the federal government so it is not costing taxpayers more money. This is life-changing for the elderly and anyone who is without transportation."

"There are all these corners to our districts that are not being served. If you are living in my district or this area, you don't need to feel like you are desolate and that there is no way you will be able to get to a doctors appointment, the pharmacy, to and from work, to Best Buy or maybe you just want to join good friends for a coffee," said Senator Rulli. "You should not feel stuck. When you look at the area there are a lot of areas where Uber does not go, where there is no taxi service, or where there is no bus, so that is what we hopefully are going to fix, and the best part to me is that no extra tax money will be requested so it will not cost my constituents any more money."

Community Bus Services in Trumbull County is the only privately owned public transit system in the United States and operates 365 days a year.

"We have been able to partner with existing public transportation like WRTA and private transportation to provide 60,000 rides a year for people in Trumbull County, including veterans who have appointments at the VA," said CEO Terry Thomas. "About 20,000 of the rides each year are for senior citizens and we have a direct contract with Trumbull Veterans Services administration. Not only do we give veterans services to Cleveland Clinic, but they get point to point services in Trumbull County. They are allowed to bring a caregiver or service animal along with them for free. The veterans and seniors tell me it's dramatic and provides access to whatever they need to go because it's a public service. By pooling and collaborating among all the sources of funding we are able to attract federal money. We have been able to use about $700,000 to leverage about $2.5 million in total program funds from federal and state sources."

Thomas said the subsidized service will only be about two to three dollars while riding in an Uber would be around $20.

Senators Rulli and O'Brien hope to have the amendment in the transportation bill in effect by the end of March.

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