By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - After a 10-month absence, public transit will return to Hamilton in mid-October.
The Butler County Regional Transit Authority on Wednesday approved a plan to provide bus service for Hamilton from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. three days a week.
"It's less than we all wanted," said authority board member and Hamilton Councilman Richard Holzberger, who instigated the plan. "But it's a good beginning. It gives us an opportunity to provide a needed service to residents of Hamilton."
The tentative plan calls for bus service to run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The board decided to call this new Hamilton bus service The Shuttle. It will cost $1 per ride with no free transfers.
The old Transit Authority fixed-route system, which ended last December because of a lack of funding, was called The Blast. It had more routes and served other communities besides Hamilton.
Buses with 22 seats willappear every half-hour at stops along a main route running from the Hamilton Plaza on Ohio 4, over High Street and ending near the Meijer and Wal-Mart stores on Main Street in the northwestern part of the city.
Buses with 10 seats will run every hour on east, west and south loops.
The routes won't be final until public hearings are held. Bus stop locations also need to be determined.
"This gives us something to build on," said Carla Lakatos, executive director of the Transit Authority.
The cost of this service will be covered by $219,000 in federal money from the Transit Authority, $147,000 from Hamilton and $55,000 in anticipated annual fares.
The Transit Authority would like Hamilton to place a transit levy on the March 3 primary election ballot to expand the bus service to five days a week, 12 hours a day. Holzberger said he thinks City Council is willing to do that.
If the Transit Authority hadn't struck a deal with Hamilton for bus service, it would have gone out of business at the end of this month.
The Transit Authority had to eliminate direct bus service at the end of last year after Butler County voters rejected a proposed transit sales tax increase. But Hamilton voters strongly supported that tax increase.
The Transit Authority allocates federal funding to the Metro transit system to provide rush-hour express bus service from West Chester Township and Fairfield to downtown Cincinnati.
Holzberger said the three-days-a-week, nine-hours-per day bus service isn't designed to help people commute to work. Its main value, he said, will be to assist people in getting to shopping destinations and appointments.
"People can use it to go to doctors' offices and the grocery," he said.
West loop includes Fort Hamilton Hospital, Brookwood, Millville Avenue, Long Towers and the Second Ward.
East loop will include the Butler County Government Services Center, the Second Ward, Hamilton Crossings and the Five Points area.
South loop will include Miami University's Hamilton campus, Belle Towers, Lindenwald/Pleasant Avenue, Thriftway, Hamilton Plaza and Hamilton Crossings.
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