Counties and schools look at shared busing

NILES – County and school officials are considering combining transportation services for students in the tri-county area.

“This is a true shared services program across platforms. Nobody else is doing this,” Terrence Thomas of Community Bus Services Inc. said. ”We think we can do this here and now.”

His group helped develop a report presented by the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, including results of a study that supports participation in shared busing services.

Thomas said he’d like to launch the Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning Office of Mobility Management by mid-January, but that the endeavor will require “a core group of Trumbull County leadership to ensure success.”

Participants in the shared busing service would include all 41 school districts, three transit properties, three developmental disability boards, four Head Start locations and three county departments of Job and Family Services in the tri-county area, he said.

Funding could be secured in the way of a TIGER grant, in which $35 million is available for planning by the USDOT for National Infrastructure Investments.

The grantee is the city of Niles, with the sub-grantee being the TCESC in cooperation with the Ashtabula and Mahoning Education Service Centers.

The objectives of the service, according to the report, are to reduce fossil fuel emissions; reduce total energy use; and improve overall energy efficiency in transportation.

Currently, the amount of fuel being used annually is 2 million gallons over 1,809 square miles, according to the report. It estimated that sharing select school bus services would save 10 percent of the school buses deployed daily, or $3 million annually.

Randy Cole, director of the Governor’s Office of Shared Services for the State of Ohio, said Thursday, “It’s leveraging all those assets more efficiently. The key to this working is the parents and the taxpayers.”

Cole said the important thing to remember is to remain focused on the quality of service as well as maintaining communication.

“We’re all in this together. The world is changing rapidly,” he said.

Still, he recognized that it was a lot to take in at once, likening the information to drinking water out of a fire hose.

Thomas said each district would have a certain amount of control as far as the busing services. The next step, he said, is to establish a leadership team.