December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Riders hope voters will boost anemic Lorain County Transit

Lorain County Transit buses are parked April 14 in the agency’s garage in Elyria. CHRONICLE FILE

Lorain County Transit buses are parked April 14 in the agency’s garage in Elyria. CHRONICLE FILE

ELYRIA — Lorain resident Alexa sat near a bus stop littered with graffiti on Thursday, her wheelchair piled high with shopping bags. For Alexa, who declined to give her last name, the bus that would pull up almost an hour after she arrived at the stop is her only means of transportation.

“Something has to be done,” Alexa said, adding that the transit system only took her to the Midway Mall and back to her home in Lorain. The route she used to use to get to her frequent hospital appointments has been closed for years.

“It just hurts … I’m grounded,” she said.

However a new levy which will appear on the May ballot might change that.

A proposed 0.065-mill levy, would bring in more than $400,000 a year to support Lorain County Transit. A similar levy lost with 59 percent of the votes against the measure in 2013.

Beverly Beidelman, who is leading the campaign committee for the levy, said the money would be used to improve existing routes with more buses and to add routes. Due to budget cuts in recent years, the once county-wide system has been reduced to two main routes.

“We have to see where the need (for more routes) is going to be … We can do that if the levy passes,” she said.

Many riders, who say that the busses are their only way to get around Lorain and Elyria, agreed that essential aspects of the transit system — including frequency of buses and the number of routes — need to change.

“Sometimes we have to wait an hour (for a bus),” high school student Courtney Welser said. She frequently rides Route 51 from her house to school in Elyria. She said that she and other students rely on the buses. However, she and other high school students said they would like the buses to be cleaner, come more frequently and travel farther around Lorain County.

According to Beidelman, a transit levy could help solve the frequency problem by allowing the county to invest in more buses to add to existing routes.

“It would create a better turnaround time … they can’t do that without money,” Beidelman said.

Some transit riders are wary of whether the levy can improve the transit system conditions.

“Are they going to do it? They’ve promised before,” Alexa said, questioning whether the money from the levy would be used to add more buses and routes.

For Beidelman, who remembers the budget cuts that left the transit system with fewer, less frequent routes, the chance to improve public transportation is long overdue.

“There’s an opportunity to make a difference … we’re helping every other county out there instead of our own,” she said.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.