By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport City Council is considering creating a city transportation department to help ease mass transit issues in the city.
The proposed department would include a transportation director who would manage a shuttle bus system between area COTA routes and Groveport businesses to help area employers and workers. The department would also oversee the city’s senior transportation program.
The need for a shuttle bus system
City officials say businesses in Groveport’s industrial parks are having difficulty finding enough employees to fill their needs. Groveport Assistant Administrator Jeff Green said one problem with potential employees being able to work in Groveport’s industrial parks is that the city’s transportation needs are “seriously underserved” by the regional COTA bus system.
Green said city officials fear the city could lose some large employers to areas with better transportation services and with higher unemployment rates that would make more potential employees available to their businesses.
“Potentially losing large employers because they cannot find workers would be detrimental to our financial stability,” said Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall. “We need our businesses to be successful. How does this translate to our residents? The services we are able to provide them, like the rec center, golf course, parks, sidewalk replacement, etc., come largely from revenue from our industrial parks.”
Added Green, “These businesses bring in 95 percent of our income tax revenue. We have to find a way to merge economic development with transportation.”
Green had been part of a group of businesses, officials, MORPC, COTA and development organizations attempting to solve the transportation problem.
“Those efforts could never get off the ground,” said Hall. “Too many players, but not enough willing to participate. It has become critical due to the low unemployment rate in Franklin County. One of our largest employers said they could not go through another peak season without more staffing and the major problem is the lack of public transportation into the area.”
Implementing a shuttle bus system
City officials are requesting council approve the creation of a city transportation department, along with a transportation director (with a salary range of $21.95 to $35.27 per hour), to oversee the bus shuttle system.
Hall said the number of shuttle bus routes and stops are being discussed.
“The routes will originate at the farthest COTA stops – State Route 317 at Homer Ohio Lane and Alum Creek Drive to the various Groveport businesses in the Rickenbacker area,” said Hall. “We are also exploring a connection with the Fairfield County Bus System, possibly at the Gender Road Park and Ride. Our goal is to be operational by Sept. 1 so we are ready for when the businesses start hiring for their busy holiday season.”
She said the cost of the shuttle bus program is still being determined.
“We are currently in the early stages of negotiating with a shuttle business who would provide the drivers,” said Hall.
She said other costs would be the purchase/lease of two to three shuttle buses, operating costs, and fuel costs.
Green said several area businesses expressed a willingness to contribute financially to the program.
“The businesses we have met with understand the need for them to be the major contributors to this program,” said Hall. “Any money the city puts into this program will come from tax revenue the city receives from the businesses.”
Hall said it is more economical for the city to supply the shuttle buses. She said COTA officials said they will assist Groveport in attempting to obtain grant funds for the purchases of future shuttle buses once the city has an operational program and has the ridership numbers to support the grant requirements.
Hall said it is more efficient to include the city’s senior transportation program, as well as the shuttle system, under the authority of the proposed new transportation director. Currently senior transportation is managed by the parks and recreation department.
“Scheduling routes is an integral part of both programs, so it makes sense for an employee skilled in this field to handle both programs,” said Hall. “In the future, should we decide to hire our own drivers, the drivers could possibly work for both the shuttle and senior transportation programs.”
The proposed transportation department would also include one full-time coordinator to assist with scheduling, driving for the senior program and working with the part-time senior program drivers.
Council will make a decision on creating the transportation department at a future meeting.