Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, Nov. 26 newspaper on Page A3.
Athens On Demand Transit and Athens Public Transit will soon be under the same funding umbrella, according to Athens County Mobility Coordinator Jessie Schmitzer, which she says will allow the two transit programs to be better funded.
The funding change is due to the two entities merging by the beginning of 2020. That will push AODT into a different area of funding, which Schmitzer says will help out with the transit budget.
Traditionally, AODT has been funded through a state fund that is intended for seniors or individuals with disabilities. However, there is less money available in that fund than where APT is funded, and so this will help bring more money to the service next year.
With this, AODT can now offer more services. Starting in January, the program will begin operating on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Riders can be picked up anywhere in the county and go anywhere else in the county for just $2.
Schmitzer noted that the service is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so riders may wish to call as soon as they know they will need a ride, even a week in advance, and ensure they will have a ride. She noted that last year, over 600 riders had to be declined due to the program operating at full capacity.
Possibly more exciting is that Line 7, which was introduced this year as a 6-month pilot program running from Nelsonville to Athens and then out to Albany, has received enough state money to be fully-funded through the end of 2020. Riders can go from Nelsonville to Albany for just $1.
“It’s great, just so exciting,” Schmitzer said.
Earlier this month, Schmitzer was notified that APT and AODT will see a 155 percent increase in state and federal funding, bringing in over $2.5 million in 2020 for both programs.
Additionally, APT will be expanding its fleet with the addition of a new 35-foot bus. Two other busses will be replaced, Schmitzer noted, and a driver’s position will soon be available for hiring.
“We’ll still use some of the older vehicles, we try to use as many as we can since we’ve been working at full capacity,” she said. “We want as many vehicles on the road as possible, as well as many drivers as possible.”
Any questions regarding APT and AODT can be directed to Schmitzer, available at 740-589-3790 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Riders can also download the DoubleMap phone application to see where busses are on the routes.