Lack of bus service in Lorain County often leaves those without cars stuck.
Many in Oberlin without transportation rely on the Oberlin Connector, a partnership between the city and Lorain County Transit. City council members on Jan. 3 approved renewing the agreement, which county commissioners are expected to approve later this month.
The connector provides rides for Oberlin residents around the county from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. With no routes to Oberlin — LCT has just four routes, all in Elyria and Lorain — residents call ahead for service.
The annual cost is $25,000. Taxpayers cover $5,000 and the remainder is paid for by local businesses and nonprofit groups, including Discount Drug Mart, Kendal at Oberlin its residents association, the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority, Mercy Allen Hospital, Northwest Savings Bank, Oberlin College, Oberlin Community Services, and Welcome Nursing Home.
Oberlin is the only community in the county with a ride agreement with LCT. The connector began in 2010 after LCT eliminated routes to Oberlin due to budget cuts.
Statistics from the city show the connector is needed. Ridership increased from 1,930 trips in 2015 to 2,131 last year, according to city manager Rob Hillard.
Transit proponents last year unsuccessfully sought to restore service around the county including in Oberlin and Wellington, The group Mobility & Opportunity for a Vibrant Economy, or MOVE, failed to convince county commissioners to place a dedicated transit tax on the November ballot.
If passed, the 0.25 percent sales tax increase would’ve raised raised about $9.5 million annually. The money would’ve paid for 10 new routes with 14-hour per day service, seven days a week, and 30-minute maximum waits.
Commissioners instead proposed splitting money from the increase between LCT and the general fund to eliminate a deficit. Voters resoundingly defeated the proposal by a 74 percent to 26 percent margin.
Councilwoman Sharon Pearson, a MOVE member, said the group plans to work this year with commissioners to get grant money to expand service. Until service is improved, she said Oberlin needs to increase awareness about the connector, including updating information on the city website.
“There are so many people who need the service, especially since we don’t have the countywide service right now,” Pearson said. “We have something really unique that nobody else is doing.”
Councilman Bryan Burgess asked finance director Sal Talarico to research whether Oberlin could increase vehicle registration fees to expand service. Council president Ron Rimbert asked Hillard to research whether it might be more efficient to change what days service is available, even if hours can’t be expanded.
“I’m very proud of what Oberlin has done as far as in our effort to make sure that people have an opportunity to get where they need to go,” Rimbert said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
File photo Oberlin Connector bus service will continue this year after city council members renewed an agreement with Lorain County Transit.