A one-year trial bus route will be active in Richmond tentatively by March after the city commission agreed to participate in the trial that already is being done in Berea.

The commission has allotted $50,000 of their annual $65,000 budget for the 20-22 passenger bus. The remanding $15,000 will be given to the Richmond Senior Citizens Center.

The $50,000 will cover the bus service until the end of the fiscal year in July, when the city commission will consider funding the service for the rest of the year.

The first draft of the bus route map includes 21 stops, but that number could fluctuate.

“We want people to realize that (the route) is a living thing and it’s going to change quite a bit,” said Ray Khatir, director of transportation for Foothills Community Action Partnership. “We’re still polling the seniors in our community to make sure we get all the stops that they want. Anyone can use it, but most of our clients are going to be the elderly.”

The routes are specifically designed for the city’s elderly, low-income residents, and handicapped residents. The buses will be wheelchair-friendly, he said.

Those who do not fall into the aforementioned categories, but would like to use the bus system, can call the FCAP at 624-2046 24 hours in advance telling them where to stop, Khatir said.

Bus operating hours will be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but are flexible and can extend into the evenings or early mornings, he said.

The cost is now set at $1 per trip, but could fluctuate depending on the cost of fuel, considering the salary for the bus driver and whether or not enough people ride the bus.

Based on the survey results, Khatir found that popular stops among the elderly included drug stores, Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center, doctor’s offices, City Hall, various administrative buildings and Wal-Mart.

Each bus stop location will be marked with something that is very similar to a speed limit sign, he said. It will contain FCAP’s dispatch phone number and state all bus rules that include no smoking, weapons, eating or drinking on the bus.

Berea’s Foothills transit system cost the city about $83,000 a year for the yearly service. The routes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding national holidays.

A pilot project that began July 3 has resulted in about 30 regular passengers each day, said Berea Mayor Steve Connelly.

The bus route also has been extremely useful on the weekends of special Berea events, Connelly said.

By paying $150, the city was able to use the bus on the Saturday of last year’s Fall Crafts Fair in order to bus those who were not able to attend otherwise and to shuttle people who had to park a long distance from the festivities.

The word in Richmond already is beginning to spread even though the city bus stops have not been completely set.

“We’ve had quite a few people already call into our dispatch line requesting a copy of the bus schedule and we haven’t even done any promotions,” Khatir said.

Richmond City Manager David Evans said he was happy to see the trial route come to Richmond and has the hopes that it will be successful.

“I think (the bus route) is a great need and it’s going to serve a great purpose,” Evans said. “There are a lot of people who are not able to go out, and this will give them a way to get where they need to go.

For a city the size of Richmond, it’s time for us to have some public transportation at an economical cost.”

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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