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Laura Ward, director of Country Roads Transit (file photo)
Laura Ward, director of Country Roads Transit (file photo)

City council ups contribution to Country Roads Transit so Clarksburg route can continue

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon City Council recently approved a request from Country Roads Transit for $15,000 this year — a $5,000 increase that will allow the route to medical facilities in Clarksburg to continue to operate.

Country Roads Transit director Laura Ward attended the Jan. 20 meeting via telephone to request continued support from the council. CRT operates on a grant that requires them to raise 50 percent of their funding as a match.

“That means every dollar you invest in your citizens that utilize public transit is actually $2,” Ward said. “There are very few investments you can make where your impact is doubled.”

Ward emphasized the importance of having a mode of public transportation locally.

“Most of you in that room didn’t think twice about how you would get to that meeting, but what if you didn’t have a car? What if you were disabled? What if you were unable to drive? What if you had no family in the area? Or no one available to transport?” Ward asked. “How would you get to work? How would you get to your doctor’s appointment, shop for groceries, or get to the pharmacy? Lack of transportation is truly a life-altering, health-altering problem.”

During the fiscal year 2021, Country Roads Transit facilitated 4,831 rides to employment opportunities, for medical reasons, or for shopping and socialization.

“You will notice that the number of rides is actually down somewhat from previous years, because Country Roads Transit has felt a significant impact from COVID-19,” Ward said. “Beginning in March 2020, we modified services for a short time thereafter, but I’m really proud and thankful that even though our drivers were asked to take on extra disinfecting duties and wear uncomfortable PPE, and they were at risk of exposure due to the nature of their jobs and the confined space in which they work, I never heard one complaint from a single driver the entire time, and we thank them for that.”

Even amidst the pandemic, Ward said the organization is working to expand their services.

“In fact, last year I brought you an example of an unmet need that we felt was a very high priority, which was a route from Elkins and Buckhannon to the Clarksburg area medical facilities,” Ward said. “A lot of veterans were struggling to find transportation to the VA hospital in Clarksburg; the volunteer service that once got them there was no longer functional, and it left a lot of veterans wondering how to get there.”

Country Roads Transit requested permission from the West Virginia Division of Public Transit to expand their services to the Clarksburg area.

“They generously agreed to provide us that service — that’s a big investment on their part,” Ward said. “Since transit is 50/50 we had 50 percent of the funds. We had 50 percent of the estimated $40,000 budget, and we were planning on performing the service two days a week — Monday and Wednesday one week, Tuesday and Thursday another week.”

Ward said she approached several entities last year, including city council, and requested extra money, but no group chipped in additional funds.

“We needed to raise $20,000 to make that work, and not a single entity was able to come up with an additional dollar for that service, but luckily, we were given extra federal funding due to COVID and that allowed us to launch the program with no additional match,” Ward said.

Ward requested an additional $5,000 — on top of the city’s normal $10,000 contribution — to continue the Clarksburg route, and council approved the request.

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