By Dustin Ensinger
In an effort to get a better understanding of what residents expect from it, the Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA) plans to conduct a county-wide survey.
DATA Executive Director Denny Schooley said the survey will help the agency better serve the community.
“One of the biggest challenges is understanding what the community wants from us,” he said.
The survey will be conducted by an outside firm and is expected to cost about $60,000. DATA will provide $45,000 while the City of Delaware will contribute the remaining $15,000, according to Schooley.
The survey, which is expected to begin in early 2015, will allow DATA to best utilize its greatly reduced federal resources since being re-designated from a rural transit system to a large, urban transit system by the federal government. The change resulted in the organization losing $700,000 in federal funding.
Due to the reduced funding, the organization has been forced to increase the price of demand response service, which in the past was subsidized with federal funding.
Schooley admitted the changes have left the rural areas of the county under served.
The changes have also resulted in an increase in fixed route ridership. May was a record setting month for DATA with nearly 5,000 fixed route passenger trips.
“The fixed routes are working real well for us,” Schooley said.
In fact, Schooley said he hopes to have a fixed route serving the Village of Sunbury next year. He said the route could connect to the City of Westerville, the City of Delaware or various spots around the village.
“We are going to be focused on fixed routes,” Schooley said.
Schooley also said the organization is exploring ways to serve the Interstate 71-U.S. 36-Ohio 37 area after the proposed Simon-Tanger outlet mall is open.
“I know that traffic congestion is an issue there,” he said. “I believe that we can help.”
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.