Mayor Steve Patterson has big plans for Athens, particularly in terms of transportation: e-scooter legislation and a new bus route are likely to be rolled out in the near future.
Funding for a six-month pilot bus route that would travel from Albany to Nelsonville is about 95 percent attributed, Patterson said. Earnest discussions about the route’s legitimacy have taken place for about a year and a half, though the project’s prospective was discussed as early as 2012 when Patterson served on City Council and was not yet mayor.
The additional hourly bus route, which costs $86,000 to pilot, would stretch from Albany on US-50 through Athens to loop again on US-33 after stopping in Nelsonville. Patterson said each town would have seven or eight stops.
Some stops in Nelsonville may include Hocking College, Nelsonville Square and OhioHealth Clinic. Patterson said the addition of the bus route may open opportunities for students wishing to transfer credit between Ohio University and Hocking College.
“They’ve got the busses. They’ve got the personnel. They’ve got the route. It’s just a matter of funding,” Patterson said on the final obstacle to the pilot’s launch. “...so we’ll see how this goes. We’re really close, and it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen.”
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Council members drafted an ordinance pertaining to potential e-scooters in Athens, Patterson said. E-scooter companies, such as Bird and Lime, have reached out to gauge the city’s interest in this mode of transportation.
“It’s interesting when you look at the whole concept of these e-scooters, which I find fascinating quite honestly, as a non-fossil fuel-powered mode of transportation that could work if done right in the city of Athens,” Patterson said.
Athens would charge e-scooter companies $10,000 for a permit to establish a branch in the city. Patterson said the cost pales in comparison to what other cities in Ohio, particularly Columbus, are charging.
Though e-scooter companies would be in charge of issuance, collection, maintenance and other fees, concerns about steep terrain, parking and Athens’ brick roads remain.
Patterson is also looking for more efficient street lighting is for the city.
An outside company is taking inventory of Athens’ street lighting and assessing electricity costs this week.
Some lights in the city are owned by American Electric Power (AEP), but Patterson wants to know if Athens could potentially take ownership of those lights and switch to brighter and cost-efficient LED lights. Currently, the city pays an electric bill to AEP for lights owned by the company.
“This audit’s going to be really informative for us to see, you know, what’s the possibility of us either purchasing or taking control of the lighting,” Patterson said.