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Plan to merge Brunswick transit worries riders

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    Director of Medina County Office for Older Adults Laura Toth speaks to attendees Tuesday at the Brunswick Transit Alternative public meeting Monday night.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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21311054

Director of Medina County Office for Older Adults Laura Toth speaks to attendees Tuesday at the Brunswick Transit Alternative public meeting Monday night.

HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge

Brunswick residents said Monday they are concerned how a proposed transportation merger would affect them and their trips to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments.

The city is considering merging the Brunswick Transit Alternative with the Medina County Public Transit next year. City Council’s Committee-of-the-Whole approved the merger Sept. 9 to allow city Service Director Paul Barnett to start negotiations with Medina County Public Transit.

“We’re trying to put together if we do merge what (it will) look like,” Barnett said.

Council must vote on any contract.

At Monday’s hearing, city resident Jacqueline D’Achille said she’s been riding the BTA bus for nine years and uses it to go to the grocery store. She said using the bus lifts to load her grocery cart takes time on the fixed routes.

“We’ll continue to accommodate that,” Barnett said. “If we identify the fixed routes are taking longer because of the lifts, we’ll re-evaluate the times.”

Debbie Oblisk, who has been a driver for 14 years, said she estimates 10 to 16 lifts per shift, which takes five minutes per lift, pushing the routes behind schedule.

“I commend the drivers for what they do every day,” Oblisk said. “If they’re a little late, I don’t care.”

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. Buses do not run on Sunday or holidays.

Barnett said the start and end times may be re-evaluated based on riders’ needs.

Other residents questioned the financial aspect of the proposed merger.

Mike Salamone, director of Medina County Public Transit, said Brunswick Transit Alternative received $283,977 in federal grants in 2016. He expects the same funds to be provided in 2017.

“If this merger goes through, that money will come over to us and it will help us financially,” Salamone said.

Barnett also advised residents that a Brunswick representative will be appointed to the Medina County Public Transit policy committee to have input on the transit system. One project the committee could work on, Salamone said, is posting bus stop signs around public areas in the city.

Barnett said the merger would not change routes, hours of operation or affect Brunswick transit drivers who are employed through county transit, Barnett said. Rather, he said residents would see “a little bit of an improvement” in the system.

The transit will continue to operate the two fixed routes. A third bus would be added that would provide variable routes for riders.

“What we hope to see with that is if you have the two fixed routes the schedule will be better and on-time,” Barnett said.

The merger would increase rates for riders on the fixed routes for seniors, people with disabilities, adults and students to $1 in 2018 and $1.50 in 2019. The $1.50 rate matches what the county charges.

If seniors, age 60 and older, sign up with the Medina County Office for Older Adults, there would be no charge for fixed routes. Veterans also would have the opportunity to ride free.

Laura Toth, director of the Medina County Office for Older Adults, handed out information at the meeting about free transportation subsidies that will be available beginning Jan. 2, 2018. Anyone age 60 or older who is registered with the office will receive an orange pass to ride the Brunswick loop bus for free. Donations are suggested, but not required.

Medina County Public Transit has been running the Brunswick service since 2010. As per the contract, county public transit has been paying Brunswick drivers’ salary and benefits, in addition to insurance on the vehicles. Brunswick paid for maintenance of the buses and fuel costs.

Besides the merger, residents questioned the status of Route 251, which goes from Laurel Square in Brunswick to Strongsville and eventually to downtown Cleveland. Residents who are veterans often use the service to get to the veterans office in Cleveland.

Barnett said the city will have to review the route due to increased costs proposed by The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, which runs the service downtown. Next year, the cost will increase from $51,000 to $54,000.

“I don’t want to stand here and say Route 251 will be here for eternity,” Barnett said.

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

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



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