Pickerington City Council last week took a step toward reviving shuttle service for local senior citizens and expanding public transit services for all residents in 2010.

Pickerington City Council last week took a step toward reviving shuttle service for local senior citizens and expanding public transit services for all residents in 2010.

Council heard the first reading Oct. 20 of a resolution supporting a Lancaster Public Transit System proposal to expand transportation services in Pickerington and lower fares beginning Jan. 1.

The move was part of the city's continuing attempt to re-establish a public shuttle for local senior citizens, which was scrapped July 1 due to budget constraints.

Pending approval of of the resolution, tentatively slated for next month, a new partnership would be forged among Pickerington, Violet Township, the Pickerington Senior Center, the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities (formerly MRDD), Fairfield County Meals on Wheels and the Lancaster Public Transit System.

Under the proposal, the agencies would share funding of a transit system that would make more trips to Pickerington and Violet Township and would charge riders less.

"It's a low-cost alternative to help support the residents who otherwise would have to pay much higher fees," Pickerington Mayor Mitch O'Brien said.

The proposal made by the Lancaster Public Transit System on Aug. 19 calls for the city and Violet Township each to provide $10,000 to the transit system in 2010. Additionally, the Pickerington Senior Center would contribute $5,000, the county board of developmental disabilities would provide $3,000, and Meals on Wheels could chip in $15,000.

As a result, the Lancaster Public Transit System could take advantage of state and federal matching grants and provide more trips to the city and township. Rather than maintaining the current fees for local riders of $15.50 each way for those who schedule rides at least a day in advance, or $18 per trip for those who don't schedule in advance, the transit agency could lower fares to $2 each way for advance reservations and $5 per trip for same-day reservations.

Elderly and disabled residents in the city and township could qualify for $1 fares.

"We're hopeful," said Carrie Woody, Lancaster Public Transit System administrator. "State and federal grants will match what we raise locally.

"Currently, we don't receive any local match from Pickerington or Violet Township. Once we do, we would be able to offer these trips at a much more reasonable cost."

To date, Violet Township and the Pickerington Senior Center have committed to contributing the requested funds in 2010. Barring a shift in course, Pickerington is expected to do the same.

"The finance committee, through the process they're in with the budget, will find the money," O'Brien said. "I don't anticipate there would be any problems.

"From there, we've talked to (Woody) about getting monthly statistics to determine where the requests for rides are coming from."

O'Brien added that once it's determined where riders live and how often they're using the service, the partners in the program can determine how much funding each entity should contribute in the future.

The Lancaster Public Transit System has been operational since 1976, but ts trips to Pickerington and Violet Township have been limited because of the costs associated with sending a shuttle from Lancaster to the local area. Woody said the transit system currently makes about 10 trips to Pickerington and Violet Township a day.

Until July 1, the city also had a nearly five-year partnership with the county board of developmental disabilities to provide public transportation to Pickerington and Violet Township seniors and those with disabilities.

Because of a shortage of city funds, the latter partnership was dissolved on July 1 and the shuttle was limited to those who receive services from the board of developmental disabilities.

"Pickerington is very similar to Lancaster in that there really is no other option for public transit," Woody said. "Now, I just need them to authorize the resolution allowing them to participate.

"Our expanded service and lower fares would be slated to begin as of Jan. 1, 2010."