PARTA discusses cutting routes, stops at Kent State public hearing

Mitchell Felan

Community bus riders discussed their concerns about proposed changes to PARTA routes during a public meeting on Wednesday morning.

The meeting, which took place at the Kent State Student Center, was the second of four hearings. PARTA Planning Director Katherine Manning and route planner Clayton Popik hosted the meeting.

“We’ve been working since the beginning of the year … (doing) research on changes that we think would make the routes more effective and efficient for Portage County,” Manning said.

Some of the changes are more general and affect the entire bus system.

Popik said that he wants to create a “pulsing” and “clock-facing” model for PARTA’s two main gateways, Kent Central Gateway and Ravenna’s University Hospital.

“(Pulsing means) as many buses as possible leave the same location at the same time,” he said. “Clock-facing means we’ll time those stops to be at a regular interval.”

According to Popik, the intervals could either be on the hour and half hour, or a quarter before and after any given hour. Additionally, he wants to allow more consistent services in neighborhoods like Stow’s Silver Meadows neighborhood and Ravenna’s Skeels neighborhood.

“One of the problems I have with our routes is that we often have more patterns in our routes than routes,” he said. “One of (the) goals was to make each route do the exact same thing every time.”

Popik pointed to the inconsistent stops in these neighborhoods and said that the routes sometimes skip these areas due to scheduling. Others were much more specific and affected specific routes.

Two routes that PARTA wants to completely eliminate are the Kent Circulator and the Gateway route. Popik said the routes are not getting enough ridership to continue operation.

“We want to better allocate our resources and better use our funding,” Manning said in defense of the change.

Howard Whitcomb, who attended the meeting to address the cutting of the Kent Circulator route, disagreed with the proposal.

“I ride that bus all the time and it’s always full,” Whitcomb said. “There are a lot of people who depend on that bus and I can’t believe they’re thinking of ending it.”

Whitcomb also pointed to poverty-stricken and disabled people who depend on Kent Social Services who would be affected by the change.

Other proposed changes would cut stops from established routes, such as the proposed cut to the VA stop on the Cleveland Express service.

One couple, who wished to remain anonymous, told PARTA the change would be a “burden.”

“I work at the Cleveland Clinic, so I use (the Cleveland Express bus) every day,” the woman said. “I know lots of people who this will affect.”

These suggestions will be taken into account when the PARTA Board of Trustees meets next month on Nov. 17.

PARTA is still looking for input and is asking that bus riders give their input online, over the phone or at scheduled meetings around Portage County.

All suggestions are due to PARTA by Nov. 10.

Mitch Felan is the safety/transportation reporter, contact him at [email protected].