When it comes to public services, the importance of transportation can’t be overstated. Without a way to get to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store, some people would suffer.
Fortunately, residents in Hancock County have options, including the Hancock Area Transportation Services program.
Operated through the Hancock Hardin Wyandot Putnam Community Action Commission, HATS provided rides to 1,300 residents of Hancock County in 2013.
In all, there were 42,084 one-way trips and 332,740 miles logged.
Now, that’s a public service.
HATS is available to all, but is used primarily by seniors, those with disabilities and low-income people. Reservations are required, and the fares are reasonable. It costs just $1.50 per trip within Findlay, and $2.50 in rural areas.
The Community Action Commission is updating its public transportation plan. Discussion during public meetings held this week in the four counties served by the agency, along with surveys that can be submitted by those who use transportation services, will be incorporated into the final plan.
HATS relies heavily on state and federal grants, as well as on the United Way of Hancock County, which has provided about $1 million for HATS during the past four years.
While the county must regularly update its transportation plan to qualify for certain grants, the public meetings and surveys are also important, according to CAC Executive Director Joshua Anderson, because the input helps shape the program.
“We’re always trying to meet the needs of the community the best we can,” Anderson said Wednesday. “The feedback helps us to see what we’re doing well or ways where we can improve.”
However, with the exception of expanding its hours, as some have suggested, it may be hard for HATS to do more than it’s already doing unless more funding is found.
HATS hasn’t been static. It has grown steadily since 1999, when the program was launched. The commission even tried to expand public transportation options in 2010 after a community survey suggested public transportation was lacking.
During the experiment, shuttle buses offered rides on certain routes on the north side of Findlay and to the east and west sides. But rider numbers were low, causing the project to be halted after three months.
HATS, meanwhile, appears to be getting stronger doing what it does best: shuttling people around Hancock County. There are now 18 vans in its fleet, and there are six full-time drivers, four-part time drivers and 18 substitute drivers.
While it’s the county’s largest ride program, it’s not the only one. The Agency on Aging and Veterans Service Commission also provide rides. The area is also served by Accurate Cab, a commercial taxi service.
Hancock County’s public transportation needs may one day outgrow HATS, but, for now, the program seems like the right fit.
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