The wheels on the buses to Moundsville may be going round and round, but the number of riders on them has Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority officials concerned.
OVRTA Executive Director Tom Hvizdos said Wednesday the OVRTA board will review the Moundsville runs in January, along with ones to The Highlands retail development near Triadelphia, because board ridership standards are not being met. That means the routes could be changed or stopped completely, should the board deem it necessary.
"It's not coming up to the standards yet," Hvizdos said of the Moundsville runs. "At this point, it would look like the Moundsville and Highlands routes would be one that they would consider."
He said, right now, the Moundsville bus runs are averaging about 50 percent ridership per hour, with an average 38 passenger trips - meaning there are 19 actual riders each day. That number is down from the service's first week of operation in June, when the average number of passenger trips was 52, or about 26 actual riders each day.
The Highlands run is averaging 45 passenger trips, or 21 to 22 riders each day - an average 60 percent ridership per hour, Hvizdos said. During its first week, the average number of passenger trips was 53, meaning there were 26 to 27 actual riders per day.
"It's still a bit underneath," Hvizdos said of the Highlands run.
Hvizdos said board policy is that any run that does not have a per hour ridership of at least 75 percent goes up for review by the board. At that time, based on the ridership information presented to them, board members would consider whether the routes should be altered or terminated.
"(The information) tells the board that 'Is this something we want to continue or this something we want to end?'" Hvizdos said of the ridership numbers.
However, he noted that with the holidays approaching, the number of riders on both routes is expected to increase - another factor that will be considered by the board.
Hvizdos brought his concerns to Moundsville City Council on Tuesday, explaining that most of the riders to Moundsville are coming to shop at Wal-Mart. Hvizdos and council members discussed the possibility of placing an excess bus levy before voters in 2010, but that would depend on the board's decision in January. Based on levy rates in Benwood and McMechen, as well as 2000 census data for Moundsville, Hvizdos said taxpayers could pay between $2.32 and $4.32 a month per household for the levy.
According to the census data, the average median value of single family, owner-occupied housing units was $53,700, while 93.5 percent of owner-occupied units in the city were valued under $100,000.
"That would tell you that 93 percent would be paying about $4.32 per month," Hvizdos said.
But other factors, including the destinations and number of runs, would also be considered when determining the levy amount.
In 2008, Benwood, via bus levies, paid $91,342 to the OVRTA system, while Wheeling contributed $1,234,979; Bethlehem contributed $64,258; McMechen paid $24,048; Marshall County gave $500; and Ohio County contributed $30,500, which included $30,000 toward the cost of a $50,000, six-month trial run to The Highlands.
The runs to Moundsville began in June with an estimated cost of $137,300 a year. To offset the cost, routes to Benwood, along with McMechen and the Wheeling neighborhood of Warwood, were decreased from every 30 minutes to once an hour.
The Moundsville route begins at the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling and follows the Benwood/ McMechen route to 21st Street in McMechen before heading south to Moundsville. It includes stops at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, as well as stops at the Busy Beaver/Save A Lot plaza, Kroger, 12th Street Plaza and Wal-Mart.
The Highlands route also begins at the Capitol Theatre and includes stops at 16th and Market Streets, Glenwood, Edgington Lane and Elm Grove.
Staff Writer Casey Junkins contributed to this report.