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An Athens Public Transit bus stop sign on East State Street, in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 14, 2023.

Students share concerns with Athens Public Transit

For Ohio University students who don’t have a personal mode of transportation to get around Athens, there is the public bus system, Athens Public Transit, run by Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, or HAPCAP, which serves the Hocking, Athens and Perry County areas with bus routes. 

However, Carolyn Conley, transportation division director of HAPCAP, said the Athens Public Transit has had funding cuts, which have limited the number of drivers and equipment at the transportation system’s disposal. She said HAPCAP is working on expanding and improving all aspects of its service, but the budget must be increased to do so. 

“We’re applying for a lot more funding to help with some of our funding streams. With that, we hope to hire more drivers and we hope to purchase new vehicles,” Conley said. “We’re also trying to purchase non-CDL vehicles, vehicles that someone does not need CDL, (or commercial driver license), in order to operate because that will broaden our workforce options.”

She said the 2023 budget for the Athens Public Transit was around $2 million. Of that $2 million, half the annual budget, or about $1 million, came from federal funds, about $300,000 came from state revenue, and around $200,000 came from the City of Athens to support operational costs. However, that leaves HAPCAP to come up with the remainder, which is around $600,000.

One of the ways the Athens bus routes are accessible is through DoubleMap, a real-time bus tracking map, Conley said. DoubleMap is accessible online and available for free download on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.  

Google Maps provides accessible bus route directions as well. Users can type in a destination and select “Transit” as their transportation, and it will show when the next bus is available, the length of ride, the fare, which is $1, and walking distance from the stop.  

However, Charlie Delfs, a junior studying sports management and business analytics, is an international student from Berlin, Germany, and said she recently encountered trouble finding bus stops when she transferred here.

“I was told when I came here to … download an app where all the bus schedules were on, and I did that the first week to go to Walmart,” Delfs said. “The bus never ended up coming even though it was on the app.”

Delfs said she has started to give up on using the Athens Public Transit system because of the lack of information and the difficulty of navigating the bus routes. 

“I see the buses; I just don’t know where to get on and where they’re going,” Delfs said. 

Julie Brown, a junior studying pre-social work, has used the Athens Public Transit system before and said it skipped her stop completely. Now, she is reluctant to use the Athens bus system because of its unreliability. 

“I think it's just difficult to discern. (The bus routes) can say one time that the bus is coming and then you are reading something that you believe to be true, and then it's like, ‘Oh, yeah, the bus is just going to completely drive past you,’” Brown said. “There are tools that help you but then it's also when you have a system that isn't 100% reliable, I think that's where the difficulty comes in.”

Conley said HAPCAP is working on hiring more bus drivers, but it’s difficult to find people who are interested because a lot of the buses require a CDL license. 

“Some of the things that we're facing have to do with funding but also just the state of the world. There's been a national CDL driver shortage … Right now, it’s difficult to get CDL drivers through the door. It’s actually a little bit easier to get people who want to drive but do not have a CDL,” Conley said. 

She added that HAPCAP has also been undergoing a lot of other issues with equipment that have set it back in providing efficient service to its riders. 

“There's been a lot of supply chain issues,” Conley said. “We're still waiting for a bus that was ordered back in March 2022. It hasn't come in yet.”

HAPCAP is aware of the troubles that OU students and community members in Hocking, Athens and Perry Counties are encountering with their buses and is working on ways to remedy that, Conley said. 

“I am very aware that people are facing challenges, and reliability is definitely not where I would like it to be and where the public needs it to be, but that is something that we are working from every avenue to build our service back up both, funding wise, staffing wise and equipment wise,” said Conley.

Eva Bloom, the development director of HAPCAP, said HAPCAP wants a better future for the public transit and for it to support those who use it.

“We are not able to meet the reliability standards that we aspire to,” Bloom said. “The more support we can gather at the public-policymaker space, the more we can serve our communities.”   


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