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Official ceremony held for new shuttle service

Tom Andrews (left), CEO of the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County talks to Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling, state Sen. Mike Rulli and Sarah Keeler of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s office immediately after cutting the ribbon during Thursday’s ceremony for East Liverpool and Calcutta’s Make The Connection shuttle. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — In the first six days in operations, the new “Make the Connection” shuttle transported more than 75 riders, according to comments made by Tom Andrews, chief executive officer of the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County.

Local officials, including East Liverpool Mayor Ryan Stovall and East Liverpool Municipal Court Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling, were in attendance Thursday morning during a ribbon cutting for the shuttle service at City Hall.

State Sen. Mike Rulli and a representative from U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s office each presented proclamations along with Stovall.

The program debuted July 1 as a pilot program is serving the East Liverpool-Calcutta area and harkens back to the busing services offered in the area decades ago, Andrews said.

“CAA’s CARTS has been running rural transit since 1983. Early in our history, we ran a deviated route in East Liverpool. With the onset of a study with the county’s mobility manager and CARTS, we are once again trying to meet the needs in East Liverpool and Calcutta to make the connection,” Andrews explained.

East Liverpool Mayor Ryan Stovall (left) talks to attendees before ribbon-cutting ceremonies in front of city hall for the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County’s Make the Connection shuttle Thursday morning. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

He added the program was primarily put in place to enhance the quality of life for the area’s disabled, low income and senior citizens but noted that now “the Making the Connection shuttle is for everyone.” “Without ODOT, this wouldn’t be possible now.”

The office of Mobility Manager identified the need for additional types of transportation for the county through the Coordinated Transportation Plan.

Deb Hill, mobility manager for Columbiana County, worked in collaboration with Shari Green, transportation director with the Columbiana Area Rural Transit System, to develop the new shuttle route.

Hill said, “The new route is a forward-thinking approach to transportation in Columbiana County and part of a large transportation plan for the county. (The shuttle service) has three main positive benefits: it will significantly improve the quality of life options for seniors, disabled and low-income individuals and families; it will help to provide very affordable transportation to and from places; and it will have a positive economic benefit for the local communities.”

CAA expanded its utilization of its public transit funds received from an Ohio Department of Transportation grant to make this program possible.

“It is a win-win-win for all parties,” she continued, “but especially for the people who live in, work in or visit the East Liverpool and Calcutta area.”

Stovall offered the city administration’s continued support and said that he has gotten nothing but positive support since its beginning.

The shuttle’s 90-minute regular route includes 13 stops, running from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The route begins at Todd Sparkle Market, 1616 Pennsylvania Ave., East End, and then travels to Woodland Hills, 417, Wilbert Ave.; downtown East Liverpool Giant Eagle, 619 Bradshaw Ave.; Hot Dog Shoppe, 320 Market St.; East Liverpool City Hall, 126 W. 6th St.; Fawcett Apartments, 325 Moore St.; Heights Manor, 325 N. Shadylane Drive; Wal-Mart plaza, 16280 Dresden Ave.; Calcutta Woods Apartments, 15172 Sprucevale Road; Highlands Apartments, 15511 Summit Drive; Calcutta YMCA, 15655 state Route 170; Aldi’s, 15849 state Route 170; and Calcutta Giant Eagle Plaza, 15937 state Route 170.

“We are using some of the shelters that we already had in place from our fixed routes in East Liverpool,” Green explained. “There definitely is a need for this. This is something that the community has asked for.”

Exact cash only is accepted for fares, which are $1 each time a rider boards the shuttle for ages 12 and older. Senior citizens and those with a disability pay 50 cents for each boarding (prior approval is required for the reduced fare).

Children ages 5 to 12 are also 50 cents per boarding with children under age 5 riding free with an adult fare.

Reduced fare applications are available on the shuttle or by calling the information line at 330-385-6666.

Requested, scheduled deviations for a location within three-quarter mile of the fixed route, but not listed on the point deviation list must be scheduled with an advance notice of at least 24 hours and are double the standard fare.

“We are trying to make life easier and more enjoyable by providing convenience, affordable access to those places people most need or want to visit in the service area,” she said.

The popular spot? According to Andrews, Calcutta Walmart tops the list.

Officials note the shuttle is wheelchair accessible, and all child safety seats, which must be provided by the adult accompanying the child, must be properly secured. Children ages 4 through 8 may use a properly secured booster seat or sit directly on the bus seat with the lap belt provided.

Grocery bags and service animals are welcome; however, they are not to be left on the vehicle nor will the driver help to transport them on or off the shuttle.

This pilot project continues through December 31, according to Andrews.

At that time, an analysis will be done to determine if the program has been successful enough to continue or expand.

For more information, call 330-385-6666 during regular business hours or visit www.caaofcc.org online.

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