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Proposal would eliminate several Kanawha County bus routes, replace them with on-demand service 

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Proposal would eliminate several Kanawha County bus routes, replace them with on-demand service 

May 31, 2024 | 4:58 pm ET
By Lori Kersey
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Proposal would eliminate several Kanawha County bus routes, replace them with on-demand service聽
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About 100 people attended a public hearing about a proposal to eliminate about a dozen Kanawha County bus routes Friday, May 31, 2024. (Lori Kersey | West Virginia Watch)

Dozens of people spoke against a proposal to eliminate more than 10 bus routes to Kanawha County communities during a public hearing Friday afternoon. 

The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority is considering ending 11 routes that take passengers to Sissonville, Clendenin, Campbells Creek and Tyler Mountain, among other places. 

The affected routes have a higher cost per passenger than the KRT’s remaining routes. The changes altogether would save the agency about $1.9 million in operating costs, according to a presentation on the KRT website. 

KRT would replace the eliminated routes with an on-demand, app-based ride service that’s available to take passengers from their homes to bus routes or points of interest such as airports. Those without internet access could schedule the service by calling a KRT operator or schedule days and weeks ahead while they do have internet access, Hill said. 

More than 30 people gave public comments during the meeting, most expressing concerns that eliminating the bus routes would keep people from getting to jobs, doctors appointments, grocery stores and other places. Hill read about 20 written comments into the record. About 100 people attended the hearing. 

Kimberly Davis was among those who spoke against the proposed changes. Davis uses a wheelchair and has been riding the KRT since 1988. She takes the Sissonville and Tyler Mountain routes, both of which the agency is considering eliminating.  

Davis said the changes will affect six workers at her daughter’s place of employment. None of them could attend the meeting, so Davis came to speak, she said. 

“I am here because I’m literally stuck,” Davis said. “My mom and dad take me out seven miles one way, either Cross Lanes or Sissonville — they’re taking both my buses.”

She worries the on-demand service will cost the agency more in the long run and that older people will not know how to use the technology associated with it.

“I don’t go to the library,” she said. “I mean how are they supposed to access the internet, a phone, be able to even make a call out because there’s hardly any payphones anymore.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, KRT executive director Sean Hill said the agency expected the reaction from riders. There’s a lot to learn about the on-demand service, and change is hard, he said. 

“We hope and we think that individuals being picked up at their homes and taken to a bus route, in time they’ll gain acceptance of that and that would actually be more convenient for them,” he said. “And also opens the door to KRT to individuals across Kanawha County who may not ride a bus but they would get picked up and taken to an airport or home from downtown.

“It’s achieving a lot of things but what it’s doing, the most important thing is it’s making us more financially responsible so that KRT can operate for years to come with the funding we have available,” Hill said. 

He added that the agency planned to put out more information via social media and additional meetings to calm fears about the new service. 

“We just need to do a better job of explaining what it is and showing use case examples of where this has worked across the country,” he said. “This is happening all over the country, and entities are looking to do what we’re looking to do, which is how do we provide the same or more level of service with a fixed budget?”

Hill stressed that the proposals are not final. He did not give a timeline for when the KRT’s board would make final decisions about the routes. 

KRT is continuing to accept public comments about the proposed changes. People can fill out a survey about the proposal on its website through the end of June. Comments may also be submitted via email to [email protected].