Communication, high bar needed in transit issues

Dysfunction and finger pointing, coupled by a lack of strong leadership — particularly at the Trumbull County Transit Board meetings — appear to be a big part of growing concerns about the Trumbull Transit system.

It made some sense to us years ago when the Trumbull County Elderly Affairs transportation system was merged with Trumbull Transit. There was a distinct duplication of services at that time, and merging the two seemed to create new efficiencies. What has resulted, however, are challenges serving all the riders under the single umbrella, and now two boards that are at odds with one another rather than cooperating.

The Senior Levy administrator and some members of the Senior Levy Advisory Council are seeking more accountability by the Transit Board and the private contractor hired to provide transportation services to its seniors. Some of them are so frustrated that they have kicked around the idea of going out to bid for senior transportation services.

They want to figure out ways to cut costs per ride. They want to know why requests for rides must be made so far in advance (at least a week) and why they’ve heard so many complaints about requests for rides that couldn’t be met. These are all legitimate questions that deserve answers.

But on the other hand, Senior Levy Council members need to understand the challenges that come from offering on-demand pickups for residents located all over Trumbull County. Let’s face it, not every rider can be picked up at the same time.

Also, the provider — private contractor Community Bus Services — needs to be honest and forthcoming about the challenges without making excuses. The transit board needs to set a high bar for the provider and then ensure the provider is meeting the needs the board sets. Those expectations should be built into the contract that always should be competitively bid.

Trumbull Transit Board officials argue if the partnership with the Senior Levy Council ends, Trumbull Transit may fail, largely because it will be losing a critical funding source needed to leverage other grant money.

As we see it, all those involved need to work together to find solutions. Communication is always a good first step. The perfect opportunity will present itself when representatives of Trumbull Transit, the Senior Levy Advisory Council and Trumbull County commissioners meet this week to discuss concerns. Let’s hope they all take the opportunity seriously and work to find solutions — not just place blame.

We need to fix the problems because, at the end of the day, no one wins if Trumbull County’s public transit system fails.