In an effort to support Mansfield industrial park employees, Richland County Transit joined forces with businesses as well as North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc (NECIC) and its workforce development division, Temp2Higher, and the Richland County Regional Planning Commission to bring increased service to the area. Not only will RCT continue their regular service, but, for a six-month trial period, buses will run at times that coincide with shift hours at most industrial park employers.
Fernando Molina, general manager at Richland County Transit, explained that the new schedule includes added departure times of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. from the Stanton Transit Center, including a stop at School Specialty. Additionally, Milark Industries, at 40 Baird Parkway, has been added as an “on-call” requested pick up. “On-call” service requires patrons to call the RCT office 5 minutes before the beginning of the route in order for the driver to deviate to that location.
NECIC/Temp2Higher Business Development Coordinator Amanda Cooper played a large role in the project, working closely with employers to find ways to overcome the transportation issue that is often a barrier to continued employment for many workers.
“The addition of the new bus routes was strategically timed to coincide with the shift schedules of industrial park employers,” said Cooper. “These changes have opened up wonderful opportunities for more of our residents to access stable work. By removing this transportation barrier, employers will experience some relief with costs associated with retention and recruiting.”
“The work Amanda did with the companies in the industrial park proves the employers see the need for transportation options for their employees,” said Todd Blankenship, transportation technical director at RCRPC. “We certainly hope these kinds of changes to the transit system will benefit companies, employees, and therefore the local economy.”
Cooper noted that supporting the local economy, as well as the local workforce, is a goal of this project.
“Giving more people the opportunity to obtain employment and reducing costs for employers will not only be a boost for our local economy but a restoration of pride for those who were not afforded these opportunities before,” she said.
Mansfield Engineered Components Vice-President Steve Cummins agreed, “It will be very beneficial to many of our employees, across three shifts. In some cases, it will mean the difference between employment and unemployment as transportation has long been one of the major roadblocks for many of our employees. It will mean less turnover for our company, which of course has many benefits. Stronger businesses mean a stronger community and local economy.”
Richland County Transit Board Chair Holly Troupe said, “We on the Richland County Transit Board truly have a heart for the community and look forward to any opportunity to better serve the Richland County area. [This project] is an example of community leaders, area businesses, Richland County Regional Planning Commission, and the Richland County Transit Board working together to seek out and test solutions for the needs in our area.
The trial project will run for six months. Blankenship noted RCRPC will continue to monitor the trips counts for the airport industrial park routes.
NECIC Executive Director Deanna West-Torrence said, “This project is the result of collaboration between local businesses, a nonprofit organization, our county transit board, and our regional planning commission. It shows how much we can accomplish, how we can solve problems if we all just get in the same room and are willing to seek the best solution for our community.
“This is a win-win for everyone involved, especially for those that will have reliable transportation to work in order to support their families. We hope that this isn’t an only step, but a first step, as we try to tackle this transportation issue on a broader scale.”