WOODSTOCK — A public transit system is needed in Shenandoah County. That was the message from Karen Taylor, of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, and Elizabeth Rood, a senior transportation planner at the KFH Group consulting firm, when they briefed the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors on a public transit feasibility study this week.
County Supervisor Dennis Morris said he was excited that this was being explored but he cautioned that this is just a study and it is in the early stages.
“Personally, I think there is a need, just from what I have heard over the years,” Morris said after Wednesday’s meeting. “I know with the number of elderly we have in the county, we rank high for 65 and over; there is a need just based on my experience.”
But they must do a lot more research to see what is out there already so they do not duplicate services, he cautioned, adding that it also depends on cost and it may be a matter of starting out smaller, covering what areas and times that they can and then expanding later.
Taylor said the study came after area nonprofit agencies identified that the lack of transportation is a barrier for people to access services, jobs, medical care and education opportunities. Major employers have indicated that hiring and retaining entry-level employees is a challenge because of limited transportation resources. The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce reached out to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, which then hired the KFH Group to lead the study that began in September.
Rood told supervisors that the study found human services agencies and major employers suggested a priority be a form of public transportation along the U.S. 11 corridor between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A public survey resulted in 270 comments with 195 of those comments being positive, Rood said. Some of the comments included:
n “I have a disability this would make a world of difference in my quality of life.”
n “I would definitely use this form of transportation to get back and forth to work. Yes this town does have a local taxi service which is a great and friendly business, but for five days a week to go to and from work the taxi costs me $80 a week and I live just over two miles from my work. That gets extremely expensive...Please help bring public transportation to Woodstock. This would help my family put food on the table and save to get a car of my own.”
n “There is no need for public transportation in Shenandoah County. A waste of money.”
n “Shenandoah County is too spread out for public transportation. The taxpayer dollars that this would require are better used in other areas.”
Rood said the study has shown there is a need. Now they need to determine whether such a system is feasible.
“We need to research what your neighbors are doing, what it costs,” Rood said.
There needs to be research on other public transit systems, especially in rural areas, she said, noting that they would also research local private nonprofits with transportation systems.
“There really needs to be a local champion and someone willing to take it to the next step,” Rood said about moving forward with the project.
The two agencies plan on returning in a couple of months to brief the supervisors on potential public transit models and cost estimates.