Sterling: Bus Runs Need Adjusting

WHEELING — Though some City Council members are disappointed with the current results of a trial bus run to The Highlands, a local official believes there still is hope for the service.

Terry Sterling, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday a trial run of public buses to The Highlands was necessary to gauge demand for service.

In fact, if run times were adjusted again, patronage of the service may improve, Sterling said.

During a City Council meeting Tuesday, Wheeling Councilman Brent Bush talked about an article in the Fall 2007 Edition of the chamber’s newsletter for members. The article reads, “Thanks to the assistance of Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce President Terry Sterling and Chamber Chairman Scott Reed, buses are now running to The Highlands on a trial basis.”

Bush took this to mean the chamber was driving the issue of providing Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority bus service to The Highlands, while Mayor Nick Sparachane said the city was under much community pressure to allow the trial run that is currently generating less than $170 per week at the farebox.

But Sterling said Wednesday the chamber wanted to get the trial run going because members of the community had expressed concern about transportation to the Ohio County-owned development.

“Scott Reed and myself wanted to get representatives of the city and county together to help find a solution to what we believed was a legitimate problem. By providing a trial service to The Highlands, we will be able to address concerns in the community by measuring what the need for the service is,” Sterling said.

He noted the service, if adjusted a bit, could work better.

“We wanted to provide potential employees a way to get to work up there, and wanted to help the employers find some employees, and the buses are a good way to do that,” he said.

Statistics provided by OVRTA Executive Director Tom Hvizdos show 326 total passenger trips for The Highlands’ run from Dec. 17-29, generating $167.98 at the farebox. From Dec. 31 to Jan. 12, the service provided 278 total passenger trips, generating $151.35 at the farebox. Hvizdos said the run to the Ohio County development has been averaging 3.1 passenger trips per hour, compared to the system-wide average of 9.2 trips per hour.

In a related matter, Ohio County Commissioner and OVRTA board member Tim McCormick supports an extension of McMechen Mayor Paul Maxwell’s proposal to extend the Warwood-McMechen run to Moundsville — even if the board will not support extending the Elm Grove run to The Highlands.

Maxwell said Tuesday he wants to see the Warwood-McMechen run extended to Moundsville so residents of his city can reach the grocery store. McCormick said Ohio County commissioners previously wanted to pay the estimated $1,500 annual cost to extend the Elm Grove run to The Highlands, but the OVRTA board rejected the idea.

McCormick said Wednesday he believes extending each of the runs is the proper course of action.

”I support extending the Warwood-McMechen run to Moundsville, just like I support extending the Elm Grove run to The Highlands. Even if we cannot extend both, I would support extending one of them because I think it is the right thing to do,” he said.

OVRTA board President and Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said he would ask Hvizdos to study how extensions of the runs would impact the service system.