Wednesday, August 22, 2001

JobBus service days numbered

Funding runs out in December

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A bus service that brings urban job-seekers together with short-staffed companies in the suburbs is running out of gas, less than two years after it began.

        JobBus' three daily runs from Cincinnati to Warren County will end when federal funding runs out in December, unless businesses step forward to fill the kitty, county Commissioner Larry Crisenbery and Metro General Manager Paul Jablonski said Tuesday.

        The need for “reverse-commute” transportation remains, both said, but the money does not. JobBus routes in Warren, Butler and Clermont counties will cost almost $2 million this year — half from Washington and half from local governments.

        “If (businesses) want it, let them step up to the plate and pay for it,” Mr. Crisenbery said.

        But neither Metro nor Warren County have approached the Mason-Landen-Kings Chamber of Commerce about the JobBus's future, chamber President John Harris said Tuesday. His group helped get it off the ground in late 1999.

        Businesses want the program, he said, but they have concerns about its implementation. For instance, the spoke-shaped route system results in rides up to 3 hours each way for Hamilton County residents, who have a long ride to the downtown hub before heading north to Fields Ertel Road, Montgomery Road and Paramount's Kings Island.

        “What the public sector needs to do is come in and sit down and listen for once, instead of doing all the talking,” Mr. Harris said.

        Cintas, another leader in the JobBus effort, was disappointed to hear it is endangered.

        “There's so much development going on out here; you would think it would be very untimely for them to pull out now,” said Karen Carnahan, vice president and treasurer of the company's 1,200-employee Mason site.

        Four other Metro routes will continue to travel to Warren County.

        Ms. Carnahan said a few Cintas employees use the special JobBus service, but she didn't know whether the company would be willing to help pay it.

        “That's something we would have to analyze,” she said.

        The JobBus will likely remain in Butler's West Chester and Fairfield, supported by more local funding, Mr. Jablonski said. Clermont's reverse-commute effort ended in June after only a few months because of low ridership, he said.

        The problem with the JobBus concept, Mr. Jablonski said, is that companies are not concentrated in the suburbs like they are downtown.

        The Warren County route carried almost 5,700 riders in 2000, he said, or about 7 per trip.

        “I don't think ridership was as high as people expected,” he said.

        Still, the Metro manager said, only 22 percent of the region's jobs are downtown, and he is not giving up on helping people reach the other 78 percent: “There's a disconnect here between where the jobs are and where the people are.”


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