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Brunswick revisits transit merger with Medina

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Brunswick City Council circled back to discussing the merger of the Brunswick Transit Alternative with Medina County Public Transit and made a motion to approve the idea during its Committee-of-the-Whole meeting Monday night.

The next step is for the city’s law department to draw up an agreement with Medina transit to merge the transportation systems by January.

Service Director Paul Barnett said the merger would allow Medina transit to maintain the administrative bookkeeping responsibilities for the countywide transportation system that would “free up” his time to address other issues in Brunswick.

“I can spend more time worrying about what we’re doing on the roadways,” Barnett said. “I’ve been spending 10 percent of my time on bus-related issues.”

The merger would not change routes, hours of operation or affect current Brunswick transit drivers as they are employed through Medina transit, Barnett said.

Brunswick transit operates two fixed routes with 11 designated stops 6:05 a.m. to 7:10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:20 a.m. to 5:18 p.m. Saturday. It does not provide services Sundays or holidays.

Barnett said with or without the merger, the bus system would cost Brunswick $144,000 annually.

For five years, Medina transit has been operating Brunswick transit, with Brunswick performing administrative and maintenance functions.

Brunswick transit fares, which have not increased since 1987, are 50 cents for adults and students, and 25 cents for seniors and people with disabilities.

The merger would increase rates for riders on the current fixed routes for seniors, people with disabilities, adults and students to $1 for year two and $1.50 in year three. Year two of the combined entity would be 2018 and year three would be 2019.

The merger would provide additional options for variable routes. Medina transit would add a bus for those routes. The variable routes would subsidize the fare of disabled riders and veterans and take effect in the second year.

General fares would be $2 in year two and $4 in year three but would differ based on income and age for those 60 and older, and 65 and older.

Travel outside of Medina County would be an additional $1 per rider.

Barnett said the subsidized fares would take effect the second year of the merger to provide seniors, veterans and disabled veterans have the opportunity to ride the transit for free.

The subsidized fares would cost the city an additional $10,700, Barnett estimated.

If the merger occurs, Barnett said, the city would continue to have a voice on transportation efforts.

“We would have a Brunswick representative on the (Medina transit) policy committee to continue to have some input and set the rate schedule for the next three years,” Barnett said.

The Medina transit’s Policy Committee makes recommendations that go to Medina County Commissioners for final approval.

Barnett said Council will choose the city representative for the committee at a later date.

City Council originally approved a motion to negotiate the merger in September 2015. Barnett said a delay occurred after the city’s previous service director, Pat McNamara, stepped down at the end of last year. Barnett picked up the conversations with Medina transit when he started in February.

The city’s Service Committee made a motion to merge with Medina transit at its Aug. 29 meeting.

Separate from the merger, Barnett said Council will have to review bus route 251, which goes from Laurel Square in Brunswick to Strongsville and eventually leads to downtown Cleveland in the future.

“That route is subsidized through Brunswick at $51,000 a year,” Barnett said. “The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is proposing that rate to go up $3,000 next year — to $54,000. Council will decide if they want to continue subsidizing that route or let it go away.”

If Council decides to keep Route 251 and Brunswick transit merges with Medina transit, Barnett said, the city will be responsible to pay for the route.

“We would continue that as it is and we could revisit that if it became an issue,” Councilman Joseph Salzgeber said.

Brunswick Transit Alternative is a service of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Medina County Public Transit and the city of Brunswick.

Barnett told the Committee-of-the-Whole that the city will be receiving three new buses that will replace three of the four Brunswick buses provided by the Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority. Barnett said Council will have to approve legislation before receiving the buses, which he anticipates 180 days after Council approves the legislation.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.



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