Brunswick’s new service director is taking a hard look at the city’s public transit service situation.
Service Director Paul Barnett said he has been meeting with officials from Medina County Public Transit, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to continue negotiations on the potential merger of the Brunswick Transit Alternative with MCPT.
“The financials are coming out that it’s almost a wash whether we control BTA or Medina County controls BTA,” Barnett said Monday in an informal update to Brunswick City Council’s Service Committee.
He said with or without the merger, the bus system would cost Brunswick about $140,000 to $145,000 annually.
The merger discussions began months before Barnett took the service director position in February. He formerly was the assistant public works director in Cleveland and served “in a variety of roles” during 24 years with the city of Akron.
Barnett succeeded former service director Pat McNamara, who retired at the end of 2015. McNamara had recommended a merger to council last September, presenting it as a way to secure more grant funding for the program and ensure the system had enough income streams to continue for many years.
Barnett said the merger could benefit Brunswick through a shift in the way the city’s two fixed routes, the North and the South lines, are run.
“The biggest thing that is in our favor is they (MCPT) want to do two fixed routes that do not deviate from those routes,” Barnett said.
At-large Councilman Brian Ousley said residents have complained about the service provided by MCPT, which is contracted by the city to operate but not oversee BTA.
“They can throw money all over, but if they’re not picking up the residents at the right time or delivering them to where they’re supposed to be, that’s not fixing nothing,” Ousley said. “That’s the biggest issue with the residents right now.”
Barnett said the drivers sometimes miss stops because they are asked to deviate from routes to pick up residents.
MCPT Director Mike Salamone told The Gazette that the county proposed adding a third truck to pick up people from their homes to solve this issue if the merger goes through.
“ADA (the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) states when you run a fixed route, by law you have to go at least three-quarters of a mile off route” to pick up a resident, Salamone said.
With the third truck, MCPT could extend the maximum distance of pickups from the route to one mile, Salamone said.
The merger would increase the general fares, but seniors — 60 and older — would ride free through the Medina County Office for Older Adults, Barnett said. Salamone said under the proposal, he expects the 50-cent fare eventually to increase to $1.50, which would match the fare for other bus systems run by MCPT.
“The goal is to get it to a $1.50 within a couple years,” he said.
Salamone said the 251 Flyer, which runs from Laurel Square in Brunswick to Cleveland State University, possibly could be involved in the merger as negotiations move forward. The flyer is funded by Brunswick but runs separately from the city’s fixed routes. It is run under a contract with the Regional Transit Authority, not MCPT.
Barnett said he is trying to assess the popularity of the line, which he said appears to be lightly used.