Public transit can make a big difference in small communities.
It doesn’t always take a big program to make a big difference. Case in point: UDOT’s Public Transit Team – a staff of five, who assist with planning and obtaining federal funding for small, locally operated transit providers in Utah. “The programs, for as small as they are, do a lot for the state,” says Leone Gibson, Director of Transit Plans and Programs at UDOT.
The citizens in the Uintah Basin are the latest recipients to benefit from the team’s efforts. The Basin Transit Association’s new fixed-route line circulates around Vernal, between Vernal and Duchesne and connects to an existing route operated by the Ute Indian Tribe. BTA hosting agency, the Uintah Basin Association of Governments, recently joined with the UDOT Transit Team, local residents and elected officials to celebrate the start of the new line.
UDOT’s Transit Team has been involved in the efforts to bring transit to the area for four years. “To see it come to fruition is wonderful,” says Tracy Young, Rural Public Transit Program Manager for UDOT. “Local officials have been supportive and involved from day one.” Planning for the new BTA line started with a public feed-back process including a feasibility study showing that citizens would use and benefit from a fixed-route transit line.
Transit systems are often taken for granted in metropolitan areas. But small towns often grow into the need for transit. As rural communities get bigger, new employment centers, higher education facilities, medical services and a larger and more diverse population converge to increase the need for more transportation choices. Transit systems can offer a good solution for that need, especially for the elderly, persons with disabilities and low income populations who don’t have access to other transportation modes.
“For a lot of people, it’s the only way they have to get around,” says Richard Wallace, the Mobility Manager for the Uintah Association of Local Governments. Wallace wears many transit hats — he is also the BTA Director, part-time dispatcher and substitute bus driver. Because the route circulates among three communities with Vernal as the hub, many people will have an easier time shopping, going to the doctor or to work, he explains. And persons with disabilities and the elderly can maintain independence instead of always relying on friends or relatives.
The challenge in adding a new transit program is to make it sustainable. The new BTA has been awarded Federal Transit Administration funds and has a high degree of community support so it’s getting off to a great start!
For more about the new BTA line and the UDOT Transit Team: