Valley gets a bigger lift out of WRTA expansion

Thanks to a major expansion in one of its fastest growing routes, the Western Reserve Transit Authority is on the road to providing improved service for its growing ranks of riders and to fortifying regional ties within the Mahoning Valley.

WRTA, the major mass-transit authority in Greater Youngstown, this week announced it will double the service it offers on Route 28, the Warren Express, beginning Tuesday.

The route’s buses will depart Federal Station in downton Youngstown every hour from 6:40 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. for Courthouse Square in Warren, a 100 percent expansion compared with the previous schedule.

From a purely business perspective, the expansion makes eminently good sense in satisfying a demonstrable need. The route, which traverses the busy Route 422 corridor through Girard, Niles and Warren, has witnessed continued growth in passengers in recent years and ranks as the third most-used among the transit authority’s 21 fixed-schedule daily-service routes.

It serves as a critical link and, in many cases, the only link for residents of Mahoning and Trumbull counties to reach such regional destinations including the Eastwood Mall, downtown Warren and Trumbull Regional Medical Center.

A recent survey conducted among a sampling of WRTA’s 1.6 million annual riders, found 48 percent rely on the service as a lifeline to gainful employment.

The newly expanded service also broadens opportunities for those within Trumbull County to get around Girard, Warren and Niles. It is the only operation offering daily fixed-schedule routes in the county. As such, it does not compete directly with the largely on-demand operations of the Trumbull Transit System.

From a broader perspective, the enlarged service provides more occasions for cross-county interaction and communication. It therefore serves as additional glue to seal a larger and stronger regional identity for the Mahoning Valley.

What’s more, greater use of mass transit also carries with it environmental dividends. If used to its fullest potential, the expansion can make noticeable dents in traffic congestion and its resultant air pollution from vehicle emissions.

The expansion also comes at no direct expense to Mahoning County taxpayers. Although the WRTA relies on a mix of fare fees, federal grants and revenue from a 0.25 percent sales tax in Mahoning County, the new service will be funded by a three-year $500,000 grant from the three-county Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

We join WRTA in expressing appreciation to ERCOG for its gift that should keep on giving. As Jim Kinnick, Eastgate’s executive director, put it: “This link is vital to residents of our region.”

With so much going for the pumped-up route, including its low-cost passenger fares, here’s hoping more Valley workers, students and residents take advantage of the expanded opportunities to hop aboard.

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