Bus Ridership Up, Funds May Go Down

At the same time more local residents are depending on bus service, potential reductions in federal funding have Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority board members looking for answers.

During a Wednesday meeting, OVRTA Executive Director Tom Hvizdos told board members ridership increased 5.1 percent from October 2011 to this past October.

He attributed the increase to more seniors using the the bus, due in part to a slight restructuring of some OVRTA routes.

The OVRTA system serves the West Virginia side of the Ohio River, while the Eastern Ohio Regional Transit Authority runs buses in the Buckeye State. The two authorities – though technically separate with different boards – share facilities, vehicles and personnel. For the combined OVRTA and EORTA system, ridership grew 4.9 percent in 2012.

“The increase is a positive. It shows that the bus system is providing a service to our seniors,” said Robert Herron, who serves as both Wheeling city manager and OVRTA board president.

The busiest route in the OVRTA system is the Warwood/ McMechen run, which provided 118,060 rider trips from October 2011 October 2012, while increasing ridership 9.2 percent over the period.

In contrast, the North Park/Wheeling Heights route provided only 27,334 rides, but still saw an increase over the previous year.

The only route in the OVRTA system to lose ridership in 2012 was the Mount de Chantal Road/Mozart run, which saw a decline of 1.4 percent.

On the Ohio side, the Shadyside/Yorkville run is the busiest, providing 48,863 rides in 2012. However, EORTA’s Martins Ferry/Rayland run saw a 5.3-percent drop in ridership over the year.

And while more people are riding buses in the area, Hvizdos and board member Larry “Babe” Schmitt believe a decrease in federal funding may hinder future activities.

“I think everyone at this table believes the federal government is going to cut back on programs,” Schmitt said.

Hvizdos said he keeps track of federal and state legislation that may affect the transit company’s ability to purchase new buses, which cost about $130,000 each, and impact other aspects of operations.