Tri-River Transit is a growing and successful business, jumping from 56,000 passengers riding the buses in 2010, to over 80,000 passengers picked up through the system during 2013.
The Logan route accounted for over 16,000 passengers, with the first year of a new route for Man having 3,800 passengers, which was good considering the road was closed for nearly three months.
Tri-River’s Paula Smith said they ran some Dial-A-Ride service, but it was unsuccessful because of the detour across the mountain and other issues.
“We did the best we could during the months the road was closed. We do have it up and running now three days a week like we did before on a regular schedule. The passenger count is picking back up. Once we did get it back on schedule, we let people ride fo r a week at no charge because of the inconvenience while the road was shut down.”
Smith went on to talk about Logan County’s role in the company’s success.
“Logan is one of our best routes. Logan County citizens ride and we have expanded to 18-passenger buses in Logan. We have two buses that come up through here every day, four times each, and we are running full. We are looking at having to expand to 22 or 24 passenger buses.”
The cost for a bus is between $74,000 and $80,000.
Logan County Commissioner Danny Ellis asked Smith if ridership on the buses increased with a spike in gas prices. Smith said it did at times.
“A lot of the passengers that we carry are not the ones who are using us to go to and from their jobs. A lot of our passengers are going to and from the grocery store, doctor’s appointments or school. We go to the colleges a lot, all four Southern campuses in all four counties.”
Smith let the Logan County Commission know that the Department of Health and Human Resources has put out a request for proposal (RFP) for a broker system to come into West Virginia for Medicaid for transportation.
Tri-River Transit currently transports non-emergency passengers who call Tri-River and schedule an appointment for a ride to their doctor’s appointment. Tri-River goes to the passenger’s home, picks them up and transports them to their appointment and back. Then Medicaid is billed for their transportation.
If a broker system is successful and comes into West Virginia, Smith says this process will change.
“The passenger will have to call an 800 number to schedule an appointment, then the broker will decide who will provide the transportation.”
Smith said Tri-River plans to negotiate and work with the broker. Her concern is that passengers will begin calling the commissioners to complain that Tri-River Transit won’t come and pick them up.
“If the broker is making the transportation decisions, it is out of our control. They can’t call us directly in that situation.”
According to Smith, one RFP was issued, then canceled. She said another RFP is in the process of begin issued.
The grant for federal funding for fiscal year 2015 application is due, with no increase in funding. Smith requested the annual contribution usually allocated to them by the commission to match the federal funds. She went on to say the broker system may affect the funding they get from Medicaid, which are funds also used to match their federal dollars.
“We are going to work hard to negotiate a price with the broker. I’ve heard horror stories and I’ve heard good stories. I’ve heard Oklahoma works really well with the broker. I’ve heard in Mississippi, they ran transit out. It’s one of those things we will have to wait and see. I’m hoping it works out because a lot of people depend on us.”
Tri River Transit operates in Lincoln, Logan, Boone and Mingo Counties and is headquartered at the Lincoln North Industrial Park outside Hamlin.
For more information, visit tririver.org, call 304- 824-2944, toll free 877- 212-0815, TDD 304- 824-2944 or email email@example.com.