LIMA — Thanks to voter approval of the Allen County Regional Transit Authority’s levy in 2019, the public transportation group is gearing up to bring back Saturday fixed routes this weekend.
“We’re starting this quarter with the Saturdays, and then we’re looking into bringing back nights,” ACRTA Superintendent Brian Wildermuth said.
Buses will leave the central station at 7:50 a.m. and finish by just before 5 p.m. on weekends starting Saturday, Jan. 11.
The ACRTA canceled night and weekend fixed routes in the beginning of 2018 due to a lack of funding sources.
In general, transit authorities use local and federal sources of funding as their operational budgets, but Allen County’s RTA faced additional challenges without a dedicated local source of funding outside of the $100,000 provided annually by the City of Lima. At the time, the cut in routes was initiated to save dollars, but Executive Director Shelia Haney warned that such cuts could create a cascading effect that would eventually lead to greatly reduced services as federal funding rates depend on ridership numbers.
In 2018, such cuts to nights and weekend routes eliminated the ACRTA’s total ridership by roughly one-third.
Subsequently, the ACRTA helped organize a public awareness campaign about its services, and voters approved a 0.1% county sales increase to add an estimated $1.2 million to its annual operational budget in spring of 2019. Now that the dollars are being forwarded to the ACRTA, Wildermuth said the organization is now ready to re-establish Saturday bus routes with plans to add nights at a currently unknown future date.
One of the difficulties in adding nights back at this time, Wildermuth said, has been trying to find bus drivers.
This past December, the ACRTA also added a new commuter route to its seven fixed routes. Running throughout the southwest end of Lima, Shawnee Township and the westernmost portion of Perry Township, the updated Route 8 is a combination of routes cut in the past.
Details on each route, pricing and schedules for both weekdays and Saturday fixed routes can be found online at limaohio.com, or on the ACRTA website at www.acrta.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.