New bus schedule draws controversy

Doug Gulasy

The Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority’s newest bus route is drawing the ire of residents who are now forced to wait longer for their buses.

PARTA’s Black Squirrel route, which runs from Kent State’s C-Midway parking lot to Wal-Mart in Ravenna and services the newly built Campus Pointe and Pebblebrook apartments, went into effect Aug. 23.

To create room for the Black Squirrel, PARTA has reduced the frequency of its Interurban route to Ravenna, cutting out 10 trips in the process. Instead of running every half-hour, that route now runs every hour and five minutes. PARTA also reduced the number of trips for the Kent Suburban route between 6:30 and 11 a.m. The Interurban route to Stow was not adjusted.

PARTA Operations Manager Joseph Yensel said the company wanted to create more bus service between Wal-Mart and the university and to provide transportation for the many students who live at Campus Pointe and Pebblebrook.

“That’s where the Black Squirrel came in,” he said. “It’s a short lap between (C-Midway and Wal-Mart), and it’s every half-hour.”

Students who live in Campus Pointe and Pebblebrook said they appreciate PARTA’s new route.

“I think it’s really nice,” said sophomore psychology major Amanda Butera, who lives at Campus Pointe. “They drop it off right by all my classes, so it’s much better than paying a lot of money for a parking pass.”

Not everyone, however, is happy with the new system.

Kent resident James DeLucia said the reduced Interurban schedule to Ravenna inconveniences people who used to rely on the old system.

“In my case, I had to be there before noon every day,” said DeLucia, who works as a babysitter in Ravenna. “I still have to be, and now I can’t. I cannot get there unless I leave an hour early, like I did today, and go kill time in Ravenna to be there on time.”

DeLucia said with the old Interurban schedule, someone could catch the bus coming from Stow and ride it straight to Ravenna. Under the new schedule, that’s no longer possible.

“It used to be continuous (from Stow to Ravenna),” Kent resident Michael Gubbins said. “Now you have to wait 15 minutes or half an hour. That’s an inconvenience.”

Yensel said PARTA had to reduce the Interurban schedule in order to make room in the budget for the Black Squirrel route. PARTA is funded partially through the county sales tax, and Yensel said tax revenues are down from a year ago.

“We didn’t have the option of unlimited resources,” Yensel said. ??The changes didn’t save PARTA any money. Yensel said the company made an “equal switch” between the reduced routes and the new route.

The Black Squirrel and Interurban routes create about 10 more trips to Wal-Mart, Yensel said. He said with those routes and the Ravenna route, which travels through downtown Ravenna, PARTA provides quality bus service to Ravenna.

DeLucia has a different opinion. ?”Look at all these people waiting here,” he said, gesturing to the bus shelter at the C-Midway parking lot. “You can ask anybody here who’s sitting here: They’re all frustrated with the Ravenna route.”

He said he’s called PARTA several times to complain about the new schedule and is even considering a petition to change the routes back to the way they were before.

Yensel said if tax revenues go back up, PARTA will look into adding more trips to the Ravenna Interurban route. But for now, he said the company is providing the best service it can.??

“That (inconveniencing people) wasn’t the goal, obviously,” he said. “But we have to balance it out. The problem with inconvenient is it’s still possible. You can still get there; it’s just a little less convenient.”

Contact public affairs reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]