Tim Thomas, General Manager for the Mountain Transit Authority, met with Pocahontas County community and business leaders on June 18 at the Marlinton Municipal Building to examine and discuss the needs in the county for a public transit system.
The Mountain Transit Authority, or MTA, currently provides bus service in Greenbrier, Nicholas and Webster counties, but has received recent encouragement and a possible commitment for funding from both the West Virginia Division of Public Transit and the Federal Transit Authority to extend its bus service into Pocahontas County.
Thomas said that MTA used to operate in the County, but that ended years ago.
Representatives from Snowshoe, Interstate Hardwood, Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation, the Day Report Center, Pocahontas County Senior Citizens, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau attended the meeting.
Thomas summarized some of the benefits public transportation can bring to our community.
“I really want to highlight today the economic benefit,” Thomas said. “The economic benefit will allow your economy to grow. It will become stronger by providing transportation to people who need transportation to local shopping, jobs, healthcare and many other places. When communities have access to transportation to preventative healthcare, they become a healthier community by going to regular doctors’ appointments. And it’s also a cost savings. The Community Transportation Association of America and American Public Transportation Services of America say that for every dollar invested in public transit, four dollars is returned back into your local economy. So, that’s a pretty good investment.”
Thomas envisions the MTA starting out in the county with two buses. One running regular circular routes with scheduled stops, perhaps using Marlinton as a transit center. The other bus could then concentrate on morning and afternoon commuter runs for businesses such as Interstate Hardwood and Snowshoe Resort to enable them to expand their workforces to include potential employees who don’t have their own transportation. Between those runs, that second bus could make special runs for people who have medical appointments or for other special needs. Thomas said they could also possibly schedule certain days and times to transport people to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital or its Rural Health Clinic for scheduled non-emergency medical care.
Expanding further on the idea, he said that they can assist tourism and even possibly transport vacationers, who fly into the Greenbrier Valley Airport, to Snowshoe. Thomas said they are often asked if they offer service from the airport to Snowshoe. He added that shopping or medical appointment runs into Lewisburg, linking with their existing service there, would also be possible.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton summed up the meeting like this:
“When you see the need for a job and the need for employees, what’s the missing link that we’re talking about? It’s transportation,” Felton said. “There’s a unique opportunity here that, I think, my goodness, could help so many people in so many ways. We really need to seize upon this. If we can make this work for MTA, it’s going to work for us.”
Thomas said the operation could be up and running in as soon as 90 days if everything works out. He asked the organizations and businesses to email their proposed needs and schedules to him.
If you were not at the meeting, you can also email your transportation needs to Thomas@MTAWV.com
MTA will hold another meeting with stakeholders and the public at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at the Marlinton Municipal Building.