ELYRIA — The county’s coordinated transportation plan is chugging along, with a group meeting Thursday highlighting the findings from a community-needs survey and presenting available ride-sharing options.
Mobility and Opportunity for a Vibrant Economy (MOVE) Lorain County is working to fill gaps in the county’s transportation services.
After going dormant for two years after controversy with county commissioners over funding transportation through a sales tax, the group is looking to connect residents with services like transit lines and ride-share programs, while possibly adding initiatives to fill residents’ needs.
To meet those needs, the group is creating a coordinated transportation plan, with input from residents, nonprofits, businesses and other entities, to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation later this year.
“What this plan, what members of this committee tried to do is bring together all of those different ideas, those different leaders, those different organizations that all have a view, all have an idea, all have a thought on what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, bringing together so that we can have an effective, efficient process that helps our community, our people, move forward,” facilitator Sherman Jones said.
Residents’ needs were identified for the plan through a survey, answered by 691 residents, from children to senior citizens. Mobility management consultant Sharon Pearson presented the results to stakeholders Thursday afternoon at the group’s third formal meeting.
Of the close to 700 who took the survey, the largest age groups were 26- to 45-year-olds with 208, then 65-plus with 121 and ages 46 to 55 with 129.
While many aspects of the results weren’t surprising to attendees — such as close to half the respondents were unaware of their transportation options in the county — other answers were less obvious. For example, the top five places respondents said they need to go to were the grocery store, doctor, drugstore, family and friends, and a department store. School and work, though included in the original survey, didn’t crack the top results.
“What I’m also finding from my one-on-ones and even through this survey’s results is that what is missing is the quality of life,” Pearson said. “There’s a lot of comments about people wanting to go to the Metro Parks, visit family, without transportation services we’re not able to provide that to people.”
She said current services, like those through Medicaid or Veterans Affairs, only take people to their doctor’s appointments — not shopping or other destinations.
“But yet if you look at this survey, where is the No. 1 place that people need to stop? (Grocery) store,” she said. “But they’re not going to be able to if they use Medicaid services — that’s very, very interesting.
Respondents also answered that the majority of them are using their own cars to get to where they need to go — with walking, calling a family member or friend, or biking, also being used.
The top five ZIP codes to respond to the survey were in Lorain, Elyria, Oberlin, Amherst and Wellington — with the group also receiving between one and 11 surveys from Avon, Vermilion, North Ridgeville, Kipton, Grafton, LaGrange, Sheffield and Sheffield Lake.
In terms of economic status, 145 participants self-identified as low income; 272 respondents listed themselves employed full time, while 61 were part time and 121 preferred not to answer. Another 272 had an unspecified, self-reported disability.
Beverly Burtzlaff, air quality planner for Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, presented the organization’s Gohio Commute program.
The NOACA serves as a transportation and environmental planning agency for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties. One of several in the state, the federally funded organization monitors air quality and sponsors projects to address transportation needs in the area it serves.
Gohio Commute encourages carpooling for work by matching groups of drivers and riders together by location. The online tool, gohiocommute.com, allows users to track the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions in car trips, and calories burned on bike rides, among other features.
Another commuter-focused program, Enterprise Rideshare, gave a short presentation on its services. Rae-Lin Jones, Rideshare sales executive, said the program allows roughly seven to 15 co-workers to meet together at a central location and split a monthly rental fee to commute in a newer-model van or SUV. The group would share driving responsibilities, and it is designed for longer commutes.
Looking ahead, MOVE will try to prioritize its goals for the next five years, solidifying what will be included in the final coordinated transportation plan. It hopes to have a draft together by Oct. 1, with the final product done a month later. The plan will go to the Ohio Department of Transportation Nov. 18, vying for money to expand or add services and meet goals outlined for the county.
“There’s an African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’” Jones said. “What we’re trying to do here is to coordinate the plan to go together and not have to re-create any steps along the way and to get where we need to go.”
The next public meetings are 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ohio Business College, 5095 Waterford Drive, Sheffield; 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at First Church in Oberlin, 106 N. Main St.; and 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at Avon Public Library, 37485 Harvest Drive. For more information, visit movelorain county.org.