The Nevada Department of Transportation is taking public input through the first week of July to assess transit needs in rural areas.
Claire Oswald of RLS & Associates, which is working with the state by collecting and analyzing information, and Janet Mayberry from NDOT met Churchill and Lyon county residents Wednesday at the William N. Pennington Life Center to learn more about transportation needs within the two-county area and also to Carson City and Reno. NDOT last undertook a study in 2011.
Oswald explained the funding sources and how the money is specifically used. She said Section 5311, Non-Urbanized Area Formula Program, makes federal funds available for the development, implementation and promotion of public transportation systems in rural areas with a population of fewer than 50,000 residents, and small urban areas with populations between 50,001 to 199,999.
“We try to work together to get the most for our dollar,” she said.
A good chunk of funding comes from the federal government, and the remainder is a local match from non-U.S. Department of Transportation sources, local or state sources or both.
Compared to the larger-populated counties, Oswald said both Churchill and Lyon counties cannot provide a variety of transportation needs to their residents.
She said Churchill Area Regional Transit (CART) serves the county and city of Fallon within a 15-mile radius, while Lyon County’s Human Services is a provider similar to Churchill County’s CART. The senior centers in Lyon County, RSVP and MTM also serve the county.
Both Oswald and Mayberry said the program’s goal is to improve mobility for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Funding ensures that all people who live in rural and small urban areas have access to transit to meet their mobility needs.
The 2011 plan identified areas of improvement, but many needs weren’t implemented by the Legislature because of a tight state budget. Nevada, like other states, was slowly climbing out of the 2008 recession.
Mayberry said funding should be interesting to implement the recommendations because no one exactly knows how much the federal government will fund for transportation programs, and a new Nevada Legislature will be elected in November.
“It’s a big issue all over the state,” she said of transportation needs.
Oswald said the survey taken seven years ago looked at the needs for weekend service and longer hours for Churchill County, service area expansions, connector service with other cities and counties, intercounty service, wheelchair lift and Dial-a-Ride.
Input from Lyon County residents asked for weekend or evening service, a five-day-a-week schedule for local and out-of-town trips, intercity service and expansion to Las Vegas and Utah.
Oswald surveyed the audience at Wednesday’s meeting and asked them to list current needs. The proposals in the 2011 study for both counties, the audience said, are still required in addition to transportation to and from Fallon and Fernley to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, and from Lyon County communities, such as Yerington and Fernley, to the Veterans Administration Lahontan Valley Outpatient Clinic in Fallon.
“A lot of things come down to funding,” Mayberry said. “If we ask for funding, then the studies back up what we need.”
Cathy Lucero, operations manager for CART, said she has also heard of the same needs from the county’s passengers. She reaffirmed CART also provides transportation to the VA Hospital in Reno as does a DAV (Disable American Veterans) van.
Lucero said it’s a matter of time when more vehicles to transport workers will be needed to the industrial center.
“Some, but not a lot right now,” she said of anticipated transportation, “but I anticipate as they build more industry out there, that (transportation) will become a factor.”
Rosemary Gamble of Fallon said CART does an excellent job of serving Churchill County, but she and her friends would like to see available transportation for evening events. She also suggested the addition of transportation to Reno so seniors could attend their medical appointments or go to one of the shopping malls.
With representatives from Churchill and Lyon counties attending the meeting, Mayberry said it’s up to county commissioners to meet and figure out transportation needs between them.
“Lyon County is doing pretty good, and they get around, but they should be coordinating with Churchill just to go as far away as Reno because Churchill goes to Reno a lot, three times a week, so we can make it more proficient for both,” she said.