Shenandoah County supervisors have learned about recommendations for public transportation contained in a feasibility study.
They also heard during a recent meeting from local businesses and nonprofits about the need for public transportation.
Karen Taylor, Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission senior project and operations manager, as well as Lib Rood, transportation planner for KFH Group, presented a summary of the Shenandoah County Public Transit Feasibility Study and its recommendations. The summary briefed supervisors on different models of service and cost estimates.
Abel Acen, human resources manager of George’s Chicken, spoke of the impact to the business of not having public transportation.
“The leading cause of terminations in the plant in Edinburg is lack of transportation,” Acen said.
“One of our employees walks to work every day. He was hit by a car,” he added.
Pam Murphy, the executive director of the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic in Woodstock, told supervisors about how the lack of transportation impacts people’s access to medical care.
“Lack of transportation is the main reason given for missed appointments. We have seen people come up from New Market to us on a moped in the rain, or walk to us. This (public transportation) is just desperately needed,” Murphy said.
The cheapest proposed option in the feasibility study carries a first-year cost of about $440,000 in operating and administrative costs.
The organizational plan suggested oversight by the NSVRC, with an advisory committee and using a service contractor.
The study found from public comments, conversations with businesses and other methods found the most requests were for public transportation stops on Route 11.
It recommended three transit options along Route 11 for the supervisors to consider:
Shenandoah North and Shenandoah South with deviated fixed routes running 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A deviated fixed route is transit service that operates along a fixed path at generally fixed times, but may deviate from the route alignment to collect or drop off passengers who have requested the deviation, Taylor said.
Shenandoah North would run from Strasburg to Woodstock. Shenandoah South would run from New Market to Woodstock.
This is estimated to cost $440,089 in administrative and contract costs.
This option breaks down the proposed first-year costs as follows:
- $305,231 from federal and state funding.
- $5,000 from area business partners.
- $35,033 from Shenandoah County.
- The amount funded by the towns would be $35,033, with Strasburg paying $13,297, Woodstock $10,474, New Market $4,483, Mount Jackson $4,206, Edinburg $2,136, and Tom’s Brook $436.
The suggested fare of $1 per boarding would bring in an estimated $23,296.
This would offer all of Option 1, plus services to Lord Fairfax Community College on a deviated fixed route from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The route to LFCC would begin at Strasburg High School with stops along the way.
Administrative and contract costs would bring this option to a proposed first-year cost of $603,289:
- $412,617 from federal and state funding.
- $5,000 from business partners.
- $50,374 from the county.
- $50,374 divided among the towns, with Strasburg paying $19,120, Woodstock $15,060, New Market $6,447, Mount Jackson $6,048, Edinburg $3,072, and Tom’s Brook $627.
The suggested fare of $1 per boarding would raise an estimated $33,088.
This would offer all of option 2, plus Saturday service.
This option would have a first-year cost of $673,177 in administrative and contract costs.
- $458,603 in state and federal funding.
- $5,000 from business partners.
- $56,943 from the county.
- $56,943 divided among the towns, with Strasburg paying $21,614, Woodstock $17,024, New Market $7,287, Mount Jackson $6,837, Edinburg $3,472, and Tom’s Brook $709.
The suggested fare of $1 per boarding is estimated to bring in $37,281.
The study projects that once the system is established, the Shenandoah North and South routes combined could make 30,000 passenger trips yearly. The route to LFCC is projected to have 7,500 passenger trips a year.
Supervisor Conrad Helsley said it is still early in the process. He pointed out that the municipalities still have to hear the presentation and then everyone has to be unanimous in whether to support or reject public transportation.
“It’s like economic development – everybody wants it but if it costs money, they have a different opinion,” Helsley said.
He said he did not have enough of a grasp of the material and figures presented in the study to say whether he even supported it.
Supervisor Karl Roulston stated in an email that he is interested in the proposal.
“Right now, I am still processing the data presented. I do know the Virginia Tech shuttle from Winchester is very successful and often full, so we seem to be open to public transportation in the valley. Our larger employers definitely feel that it would help retain workers so it has the potential to be a good thing for our economics,” Roulston stated.
“That said, if it helps our residents get to and from work and to and from shopping, that would be a good thing for those families and our economy, that would be hard to say no to,” he added.
Supervisor Rich Walker said there is a need for public transportation in Shenandoah County.
“As to whether it should be a government initiative, I have some hesitation,” Walker said.
Financially, he said the project under the proposal presented does not make sense to him when he looks at the costs associated with running the buses versus the revenue it is estimated to bring in.
He said he wonders if running some of the buses every two hours is cost effective.
Walker also wanted to know if there would be another way to offer the service that might involve existing transit services provided by employers and nonprofits and possible vouchers.
“I do think there is a market for mass transit. I would like to see it followed through on,” he said.