Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority reveals proposed service expansion
The Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority was on hand Wednesday at the Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Quarterly partnership meeting to discuss upcoming changes for the Transit Authority that will affect Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
Although the Eastern Panhandle doesn’t have as great a need for public transport as larger cities, the Transit Authority still plays a vital role in the community here.
For more than a decade, the EPTA (formerly PanTran) has served Berkeley and Jefferson counties, giving attention and forethought to the residents’ needs.
Rider programs, such as a $5 all day pass, discounts for students and qualifying seniors, as well as a demand response program, where a person can schedule a pick up 24 hours in advance, highlight the Transit Authority’s commitment to customer service.
With a ridership increase from 166,257 in 2012 to 184,000 as of May 2015, as well as increased travel between Berkeley and Jefferson counties, officials say its time to expand services. More people from Berkeley County are traveling to Jefferson County for doctor and hospital visits and tourism. Conversely, more people from Jefferson County are traveling to the big job generators in Martinsburg, like the VA Center, Quad Graphics, and Macy’s, as well as to go shopping.
“We would love to add more service in Jefferson County,” stated Doug Pixlar, operations supervisor of EPTA. “That’s what we’ve always wanted to do.”
Using data from socioeconomic and demographic analysis, route analysis, passenger surveys and other factors, Transit Authority has put together a Transit Development Plan. Their goal is to better service existing riders and attract new riders by increasing efficiency through route restructuring, service to new destinations and adapting to new developments and other changes to the area.
The Orange Line, which currently provides transit between Berkeley and Jefferson counties, will still provide travel at peak work times, but will expand service in and around Jefferson County during the day.
“We’ve tightened up our lines all the way around, which is going to increase our ridership in Jefferson County,” said Pixlar. “We’re very excited about that. This is just the first step. We’ve got a lot more growing to do.”
There are also proposed expansions to other lines, as well as adding more lines in the future.
Availability of public transportation is a major factor for a company when deciding to bring a business into an area.
“It’s all about getting people to work and providing transit for people that need it,” said Cheryl Keyrouze, executive director of the EPTA.
Studies show that small rural transportation systems help decrease unemployment, thereby reducing dependency on government assistance. The EPTA connects residents to 1,500 more jobs (not including the future Proctor and Gamble job generator).
There are public forums planned at the beginning of August to discuss the Transit Development Plan, followed by a 30-day review of information by the Federal Transit Administration.
The EPTA’s goal is to begin implementing changes by Oct. 1.
“There’s a lot of good changes inside and out and we’re all really excited to go to work,” stated Keyrouze.
For more information on the Transit Development Plan or for rider information, visit www.eptawv.com.