County considers public transit

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Putnam County Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to sign a letter to the Indiana Department of Transportation expressing support for a public transportation system in Putnam County.

Jewel Echelbarger of Rural Transit in Elletsville is directing the Putnam County project. She told the commissioners a countywide system could be in place as soon as 2009.

Echelbarger presented the commissioners with a sample budget for the system's first year.

"I just wanted to give you an idea of what a public transportation budget looked like," she said. "It's only an idea of what could be done."

The U.S. Department of Transportation would provide a 50-50 match for operations and an 80-20 match for capital as part of its Rural and Small Urban Areas (5311) program.

This program provides formula funding to states for the purpose of supporting public transportation in areas with populations of 50,000 or less.

Echelbarger's projections are that $127,000 would have to come from sources other than the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2009. A portion of the money would be required to come from the county commissioners and council.

"The only way public transportation in Putnam County will happen is if the county puts in some money," Echelbarger said. "It's up to the county to decide what they're going to put in. At this point, all I need for INDOT is a letter stating it is your intent to proceed (with a public transit project)."

After a year of operation, funds from INDOT would start coming in.

Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray said the city was behind the project and willing to kick in funds.

"There are a lot of people that will potentially be serviced by this," she said.

Echelbarger said the county could contribute whatever amount of money the commissioners and council agreed upon to the project.

"It could be $2,000, $3,000, I don't care," she said. "I'm going to be out in the community raising the rest."

Commission President Gene Beck said although he saw the need for a system, he didn't know where the money from the county would come from.

Commissioner Jim Baird said he wanted to make sure there was a cap on the amount of money the county would contribute to the project.

"I don't want it to be open-ended," he said.

Jim Stevens, director of the Putnam County Senior Center, said the center took such a large cut in United Way funding that he is unsure whether its van transportation program will be able to continue.

"I just want everybody to understand how desperate people are," he said.

Stevens said he could speak to the need for public transportation in Putnam County.

"We can only transport people 55 and older," he said. "Anyone in a wheelchair we can't take. We turn down pages of people every day because they just don't qualify."

Bill Dory, director of Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, said a public transportation system would be an economic development boon for the area.

"Employers talk about turnover and absenteeism," he said. "They lost good employees because of car troubles. This would be a second way for them to get to work.

"I also have clients ask if we have public transportation," he added.

Passenger fares would also go toward expenses. Other funding sources Echelbarger suggested included Area 7 Agency on Aging, Medicaid, Putnam County municipalities, DePauw University and service agencies.

"We do want to keep fares low," Echelbarger said. "In the future, we will be funded according to the number of riders."

Echelbarger included a statement from Jeffrey D. Pullis, director of consulting services for Texas-based McDonald Transit Associates Inc., in her presentation.

"Rural transit would benefit the Putnam County economy because it produces employment, sales and tax revenues," Pullis wrote. "Every $1 spent on rural transit in Putnam County would generate $3.06 in direct economic benefits."

Pullis also pointed out that rural transit in Putnam County would reduce traffic, air pollutant emissions, vehicle accident and parking needs.

Echelbarger has worked on public transit projects in several other rural Indiana counties, and considers herself a social service worker.

"I believe right now that people are really having a tough time," she said. "Gas prices are terrible. Food prices are terrible."

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  • Are you talking taxi, bus or what? That was never mentioned.

    -- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 7:09 AM
  • What we also need is mass transit to & from Indianapolis. Light rail would be great!

    -- Posted by VolunteerFF on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 7:16 AM
  • Why would you have to be 55 or older. People

    under 55 pay the same amount of money per gallon of gas. People under 55 are more likely to travel longer distances to work creating more expence for them. So why do we get excluded?

    -- Posted by B1161 on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 7:58 AM
  • Most people under 55 don't travel to or from the Putnam County Senior Center. Read the article.

    -- Posted by LangdonUlger on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 8:17 AM
  • I feel this project would be helpful for employees at Putnamville Correctional Facility. Employees can be dropped off at the "Entry/Exit Building" which is not behind the fence and would not be dangerous. Also the hours would be important, some employees need to be at work at 6:00 a.m. and work until 6:00 p.m. We also have a shift that works 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., as well as non-custody who work 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

    Please consider state employees are wages are limited.

    -- Posted by Taxpayer5253 on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 8:29 AM
  • How much would they charge for the one-way tickets outta Cloverdale? lol Gotta agree with the transit to t.haute or plainfield/Ind area, gotta be huge savings on fuel and money.

    -- Posted by honestyisbestpolicy on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 11:23 AM
  • While this sounds like a good idea the devil is in the details. County Government already has way too many requirements for the amount of funding available. I am not eager to have my taxes increase even more for something of this nature. Are you?

    How about letting it pay for itself? If it can't then I guess there isn't really a market for the service.

    J. Fogle

    -- Posted by jfogle2 on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 11:17 AM
  • I am fully behind this idea, regardless of the money coming from fares or from taxes there is a real, desperate need for transportation in this county. Many, many families stand to benefit from this program.

    -- Posted by peachsac on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 12:18 PM
  • The County needs to consider an ANIMAL CONTROL!!!!

    -- Posted by concerned3 on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 12:45 PM
  • "The U.S. Department of Transportation would provide a 50-50 match for operations and an 80-20 match for capital as part of its Rural and Small Urban Areas (5311) program."

    Last time I looked at my check stub, the Feds were getting quite a bit of it.

    We the people are still paying 100% of this service. Mainly the ones that won't be using this system will be paying for the majority of it.

    -- Posted by hoop2077 on Wed, Jun 11, 2008, at 2:34 AM
  • If only government spending could be cut. (Can't imagine that though). Locally, statewide, and federally. How much better do we have it now than we did in 1992? If you ask me, generally, things are worse. I think everyone will agree on that. But if the federal government cut spending to 1992 amounts, the federal income tax could be eliminated (and replaced with nothing!). Then, maybe we could afford gas to drive almost anywhere. Perhaps the county should quit trying to band-aid everything and attempt to set an example of a constitutional government. After all, most elected officials swore to uphold the constitution.

    -- Posted by hoop2077 on Wed, Jun 11, 2008, at 2:45 AM
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