Orange Township and DATABus hosted an open house with area employers to discuss transportation options available to minimum wage workers.
“From our business appreciation day back in October,” said Lee Bodnar, Orange Township administrator. “The possibility was flushed out that employers couldn’t find employees locally and explored if access to public transportation would help their efforts.”
Bodnar said Thursday’s event was the township’s response to finding solutions to the issue. He said he met with representatives from DATABus and COTA to understand the challenge in providing public transportation to Delaware County employees.
Bodnar said COTA can’t cross county boundaries due to funding.
“However, there is a relationship between DATABus and COTA at Crosswoods off of US 23,” Bodnar said. “There is a transit stop there that COTA stops at and you can pick up DATA Bus into Delaware County all for one fee.”
Ginny Berry, DATA Bus director marketing and community relations, said come July DATA Bus looks to revamp the green route that travels from the Delaware Library down US 23 to Crosswoods and back.
“The changes to the green route are focused on getting people to jobs,” she said. “Bringing people from Delaware city down to the townships and also bringing people from Columbus up.”
Berry said the green route is the only one that travels through the county while the other DATABus routes stay within Delaware city limits.
Denny Schooley, DATABus executive director, said Delaware County jobs are going unfilled.
“I think employers are frustrated with being able to obtain and retain employees,” he said. “I think people don’t really think they have a transportation issue in Delaware.”
Schooley said there isn’t any housing options for people with minimum wage jobs.
“We have to look at importing workers from somewhere else,” he said.
Schooley said COTA’s transit system redesign gives DATA Bus an opportunity to find ways to compliment their service. He said it will give taxpayers a bigger bang for their buck.
“If there are workers in Franklin County and we’ve got jobs in Delaware County, how do we work with COTA to get them here,” he said. “We’re in constant contact with COTA and continually working together looking at the regional aspect of transportation.”
Schooley said DATABus has limited resources, but is looking to take a different approach.
“What does the community really need, what does the community want, how can we develop services to address that specific need and then let’s go figure out how to get the money to fix that particular service.”
Some of the area’s larger employers attended the open house, but declined comment.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.