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Dayton Public Transit Cuts Essential City Bus Routes

The Ohio transit authority, known as RTA, has had to temporarily eliminate some service due to a bus driver shortage. But many of the routes being cut are essential for seniors and riders with disabilities.

(TNS) — Due to a shortage of bus drivers, the temporary elimination of several Greater Dayton, Ohio, Regional Transit Authority routes designed to transport seniors and those with disabilities has angered riders who say they rely on the service to shop for essentials.

"If you can run buses to the casino, I guess they think the gambling places are more important than the seniors in Dayton," said Saundra Smothers, a Dayton resident who takes a soon-to-be-eliminated Senior EZ Ride route to the grocery store.

Three routes serving a combined 36 living facilities housing seniors will be cut beginning Oct. 3, along with other temporary eliminations and service adjustments, according to the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

A "severe" shortage of operators and decreased customer demand due to COVID-19, was cited by RTA, which made the changes based on customer feedback and an analysis of ridership on the routes, according to RTA.

The transit authority worked "very hard under very difficult circumstances," said RTA trustees President David Williamson at this month's board meeting.

"This board is not in favor of cutting service," he said. "But we have a dilemma on our hands and that is we don't have enough drivers. Period. And so we have to make adjustments."

Candace Woods, 60, a disabled veteran, said the Senior EZ Ride bus comes almost to the door of her Sienna Springs apartment on North Main Street in Harrison Twp. But not after this month.

"I'm very limited on what I can do, according to my doctor," Woods said. "I'm in pain when I walk long distances, and from my house to the bus stop across the street on Main Street is far from me. I can't see myself going across the street when it's busy."

Smothers, who lives in the Asbury Apartments on McDaniel Street in Dayton, voiced her frustration to RTA trustees earlier this month.

"I am sick and tired of this mess, taking and taking from seniors," Smothers told the board. "You're all supposed to provide a service."

The three Senior EZ Ride routes serve the senior living facilities with stops at Kroger, Meijer and other stores, as well as pharmacies and the Senior Resource Connection in downtown Dayton, according to RTA route maps.

Route 66 runs Mondays and Wednesdays stopping at 11 residential facilities and runs south to the Meijer store on Stroop Road in Kettering, also making a stop at Kroger at Dorothy Lane and Wilmington Pike as well as other shopping centers and pharmacies.

Route 65 runs Tuesdays and Thursdays serving 15 living facilities across a broad swath of the northwest part of the metropolitan area.

Serving 10 housing facilities including Lyons Place II at the Dayton Veterans Administration campus, Route 64, a Friday only route, goes to Westown Shopping Center and south to the Kroger and Meijer at Ohio 741 and West Alex Bell Road.

Last month, RTA had 230 big bus drivers and was looking to hire 30 to 40 more. It also had 75 drivers for small buses and was searching for 10 more, according to the transit authority.

RTA has been advertising heavily for operators, a job that start at $33,592 a year, and after seven years progresses to $57,366. Overtime and other types of special pay can boost a driver's pay higher. The Dayton Daily News Payroll Project found six drivers earned more than $100,000 last year.

Kevin Frazier, president of the RTA drivers' union, Amalgamated Transit Union 1385, declined to comment for this story.

While not a veteran, Lanetta Day, 72, said she takes Route 64 to shop, often riding alongside veterans on their way to and from stores.

"If they take that bus away from us, what are we supposed to do?" Day said.

With new grant funding in conjunction with other area transit authorities, Greater Dayton RTA plans to launch a new service this fall for seniors and people with disabilities for transportation to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical appointments, according to Robert Ruzinsky, Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority CEO.

"One of the most critical needs we heard from our area seniors at a recent public hearing was the need for direct door-to-door service for medical, pharmacy and even grocery trips," he said. "They indicated that seniors are not always able to access the big bus fixed-route services, and not all seniors qualify for the paratransit services RTA offers to provide access door-to-door."

The grant from the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission will allow RTA, Miami County Public Transit and Greene CATS to offer additional medical trips, as well as provide medical trips across county lines — an issue that has been a challenge for seniors who rely on public transit, according to RTA.

Smothers said she will need to call her son-in-law and work around his schedule for a ride or call Project Mobility, which costs a dollar each way. Neither is as convenient as Route 65, she said.

"I've been using this route since 2002," she said. "I'm usually up on Tuesday morning and Thursday morning. At 7:37 a.m. I'm downstairs waiting on the bus. And that's going be hard to break."

Williamson reiterated in September's board meeting that RTA is hopeful the routes will be reinstated in the future.

"We're keeping all fingers and toes crossed that temporary means temporary. And we are working to solve this problem of getting more drivers," he said.

RTA Service Changes Beginning Oct. 3

Temporary service hour adjustments

—Fixed route and paratransit service hours Monday through Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Temporary route eliminations

—Routes 64, 65, 66

Temporary trip eliminations

—Route 7: Eliminating southbound trips at 6:48 a.m., 5:07 p.m. from Meijer and 3:17 p.m. from Wright Stop Plaza. Also, eliminating northbound trips at 5:39 a.m., 8:09 a.m., 3:51 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. from Patterson/Woodman.

—Route 8: Eliminating southbound trips at 5:38 a.m., 7:40 a.m. from the Northwest Transit Center and northbound trips at 6:37 a.m., 8:41 a.m. from the Westown Transit Center.

—Route 16: Southbound trips at 5:54 a.m. from Sheets and Montgomery, 3:44 p.m. and 7:13 p.m. from Smith and Hoke. Also, eliminating northbound trips at 7:31 a.m., 2:44 p.m. and 5:28 p.m. from Costco.

—Route 18: Eliminating southbound trip 3:07 p.m. from Wright Stop Plaza and Eliminating northbound trips 2:42 p.m. from Wright Stop Plaza, and 4:01 p.m. from First and Central.

—Route 19: Eliminating southbound trips at 6:59 a.m., 3:43 p.m., 5:43 p.m. from Meijer and the northbound trip at 5:25 p.m. from the South Transit Center.

Other service changes

—Routes 1, 2 & 4: Routing changed to serve Third Street Bridge.

—Route 12: Will serve Hope Center & Omega.

—Route 17: Routing changed from Little York Road to Maxton Road.

—Route 19: Returning service to Stebbins High School.

—Route 22: Extended AM trip from Walmart to the Gateway Shelter.

—Route 34: Extra trips added on Saturday.

—Route 43: Adjusted some trips to serve Energizer.

(c)2021 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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