As Delaware County continues to grow and evolve, the Delaware Area Transit Agency is looking at ways it can continue to meet transportation needs.
The public-transit system -- known for its short, yellow buses -- has been collecting information in recent months with an eye toward refining its mission and strategic plan, said DATA Executive Director Denny Schooley.
As the county population increases, the city grows outward and development continues, a challenge facing DATA is, "What does the community want and expect of us? ... How does it expect us to serve them for the maximum benefit?" Schooley said.
To find answers to those questions, DATA has been holding meetings, seeking input and conducting surveys, Schooley said.
One survey still underway seeks to gauge interest in an on-demand "Uber-like" evening service in the city of Delaware.
The public can take the survey at surveymonkey.com/r/DATABusDASH.
Among other questions, the survey asks respondents if they have used services such as Uber or Lyft; if they would use such a service if offered by DATA; what evenings they would most benefit from such a service; and how much they would be willing to pay.
The survey is part of the larger effort exploring different options that could be in place as early as next year, Schooley said.
DATA has conducted other surveys through email and social media and has collected input from specific demographic groups. It also has met with county officials and representatives of social-service organizations.
The information collected will be used to develop strategic-plan ideas the DATA board will consider later this month, Schooley said.
He said public transit is an option for those who don't want to fight traffic congestion or deal with parking.
Senior citizens and disabled people, he said, "have a need to be able to access services and goods ... to get to a supermarket, get a haircut, see doctors, access entertainment. ... Transportation shouldn't be a barrier to anyone accessing the community."
Some younger people, he added, aren't interested in getting a driver's license or car.
At one time, Delaware residents could walk where they needed to go, Schooley said. Today, however, the city has no supermarkets near downtown "and things are spread out more ... away from housing."
One service already enacted based on a survey was DATA transportation to the Sept. 1 Ohio State University football game.
Schooley called the trip a pilot project "to see what kind of demand we have," and "it all started with a survey."
More than 400 responded when asked if they would use DATA to travel to Buckeyes games, and 86 percent replied "yes," he said.
Schooley emphasized funding is a big element in planning for the future -- "What is the best use of available dollars?"
State funding for public transit across Ohio has declined since 2000, he said. DATA's funding also changed in recent years when it was reclassified from a rural to urban transit system.
Overall, Schooley said, DATA's state funding fell from about $100,000 annually to about $50,000.
Funding played a role, he said, in the elimination earlier this year of Saturday fixed-route bus trips in the city.
Other changes were based on a lack of riders, he said.
They included some routes along U.S. Route 23, some midday routes in the city, and the first two and last two daily runs in the city. City fixed routes now start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 5:15 p.m. Along Route 23, the start and stop times are 5:30 a.m. and 6:35 p.m.
Schooley said a sizable percentage of DATA's income is from the Federal Transit Administration.
The DATA website, ridedata.com, lists other funding sources as SourcePoint, Delaware County, the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Delaware County Job and Family Services, the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, the Central Ohio Transit Authority, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Public Transit Association and the American Public Transportation Association.