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Laura Ward, representing Country Roads Transit, addresses the commission at their Feb. 23 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Number of passengers riding Country Roads Transit public transportation buses returns to pre-COVID era

BUCKHANNON – Country Roads Transit is slowly regaining its pre-COVID number of riders.

Laura Ward, director of Country Roads Transit, attended the Feb. 23 Upshur County Commission meeting to update the commissioners on their continued investment in its program, which provides public transportation via several loops in Upshur and Randolph counties.  

“In fiscal year 2022, and so far in 2023, we’re experiencing an increase in membership; of course, COVID decimated us like so many businesses, but we are on track this year to return to pre-COVID levels,” Ward said. “Those were rides to work, mental health and medical appointments, the grocery store, the pharmacy, social and recreational activities, and I’m sure you can fully see the importance of those rides.”

Ward highlighted the importance of available transportation for those with no other options.

“Most of the people here today were able to drive themselves to work, and you don’t have to think about how to get groceries or how to get yourself to a doctor’s appointment, but some of our neighbors in Upshur County aren’t so lucky,” Ward said. “They rely on us; we become a lifeline to get to the places they need to go, so I want to compliment you on being our partner since 2006 because you are helping to sustain that lifeline.”

The program exists in Upshur County as a 50/50 match program with Federal Transit Administration dollars.  

“Every dollar you invest in your citizens gets $2 worth of services, and we are especially grateful that last year you saw fit to give us an additional $5,000 to help us get the Clarksburg VA medical route that is still growing,” Ward said. “We are very excited that we were able to identify that gap in service and fill that.”

That route has also extended to United Hospital Center, so patients can see specialists not found in Buckhannon.

“We continue to look for ways to improve that, and we’re doing that as a call-ahead service, and we go up on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Ward said. “We realized we weren’t tracking how many riders we have served on that route for the fiscal year, so we’re just starting to track that, but I can tell you we’re going at least once a week. We’ve had as many as four people at one time on the route for that service, so we go as early as it takes to get to the first person’s appointment and stay as late as it takes to get to the last person.”

Ahead of the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the commission allocated $15,000 to Country Roads Transit, which, as Ward noted, includes an additional $5,000 for the routes to the Clarksburg VA Facility and she requested the same contribution for the upcoming budget year. Ward also appeared at the Feb. 16 Buckhannon City Council meeting, where she delivered a similar report and requested that the city’s allocation also remain steady at $15,000.

Country Roads Transit runs Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. and makes seven loops throughout Buckhannon, with each loop occurring about every 60 minutes. If you would like more information, call Country Roads Transit at 304-636-6472 or to see a map and ride schedule, visit https://countryroadstransit.com/

In other county news:

  • The commission met in an 11:30 a.m. work session with Civil & Environmental Consultants to assist with developing a scope of work and fee schedule for a proposed indoor-outdoor recreational facility on the Old Weston Road.
  • The commission received a West Virginia Department of Agriculture award of Spay and Neuter Assistance Program grant funds of $9,555. Matching funds of $5,000 will be provided from the local Spay & Neuter Account.

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