MOVTA explores Belpre bus service

PARKERSBURG – Expansion of bus service into Belpre was among topics discussed by the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority during its meeting Tuesday.

Tim Thomas, general manager, said there have been discussions but it is now up to officials in Ohio to make the next move.

“It’s up to the state (of Ohio) right now,” Thomas said. “This is something that could take several months, I don’t want to push it too much.”

Thomas said the bus service that was available in Washington County has been moved from small urban funding to rural and Belpre officials are looking at the opportunity to obtain service from the MOVTA.

It is not unusual for a provider like the MOVTA to offer services across state lines, he said.

“I can think of a few,” Thomas said. “It happens in Huntington, Weirton, Wheeling and a number of smaller communities around the state.”

Thomas said nothing is in place at this time. He said Ohio officials will make their decision when they are ready because there is no deadline for them to act.

In other business, Thomas said he will not recommend the authority become involved in a non-emergency medical transport, or NEMT, program. There is too much red tape involved in the plan and it could be a financial burden on the authority, he said.

In a NEMT program, the authority would provide transportation for Medicaid-eligible persons for appointments or non-emergency treatment.

“With the brokerage system the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources implemented there are many new rules and regulations,” he said. “If the bus does not get to their destination in a timely manner or if we are late, it could result in fines, or what they call liquidated damages.”

Thomas said the fines could range from $25 to $200 per occurrence and in many cases it could be due to situations beyond the authority’s control like slow traffic or if the person does not show up.

“If we have to pick someone up and they are not there, the driver will have to call dispatch to report that,” he said. “Our dispatcher will have to go to the DHHR website and fill out a report and if that report is not filed in a timely manner there could be a fine even if the delay in from a computer problem.”

In other matters, Thomas said for a third year in a row the number of people using the Easy Rider Shuttle buses for the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival was down. For the three-day festival, the total number of customers was 2,163, compared to 2,219 in 2013 and 4,233 in 2012.

Thomas reported usage for the bus service was up for the month of July with an average daily ridership of 1,706 compared to 1,678 for May and June. In July there were 44,358 passengers for the month

West Virginia Division of Public Transportation and the West Virginia Public Transit Association announced their annual Transit Excellence Awards. Thomas said the MOVTA won seven awards for best safety, best maintenance and best management innovation, Sandy Bhaddock received an award for the transit employee of the year, Randy Balsley received the MOVTA driver of the year award, and Thomas received the transit manager of the year award. The MOVTA also received an award for its fourth consecutive year of ridership increase.