OBERLIN — American Rescue Plan funds will be used to keep expanded bus service rolling through 2023.
A two-year, $200,000 deal with Lorain County Transit was approved by Oberlin City Council on Monday in a fast-tracked vote.
The cash will come from federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Oberlin officials are justifying the decision as a way to soften the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Due to unique difficulties in access to employment, medical and other needs and services, the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency has had a disproportional impact upon patrons of the Oberlin Connector,” said the ordinance passed by a 7-0 vote.
A large part of the city’s population does not own their own vehicles, according to Kathy Burns, client services coordinator at the nonprofit Oberlin Community Services.
She said LCT service allows many of her clients to travel to the edge of town or outside of Oberlin to shop at less expensive stores — Walmart and Aldi are popular destinations, for example.
Rides to the Amherst-Lorain border and to Elyria also have been important, allowing Oberlin residents to get to doctor appointments, Burns said.
“It’s given people more freedom,” she said.
Bus service throughout Lorain County suffered a blow in 2010, when budget concerns forced commissioners to make cuts.
Using local funds, City Council paid for the Oberlin Connector service to keep rides available.
Its hours and service area were expanded in 2021 after Oberlin won a $100,000 Paradox Prize grant from The Fund for Our Economic Future. Now rides are available 15 hours each weekday, carrying passengers north to state Route 254 and east to Abbe Road and state Route 57.