Greater Chestertown Initiative Questions for County Commissioner Candidates: Public Transportation

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Editor’s Note: The Greater Chestertown Initiative worked this summer on a series of questions for the candidates running for one of three Kent County Commissioners to be elected in November. Over the next four weeks, the Spy will share the candidates responses to one of those questions every Monday.

Public Transportation

The United Way of Kent County recently prioritized transportation as a top need in the county. What ideas do you have to increase accessible and affordable transportation throughout the county?

How will you create public/private partnerships to address this issue?

How will you reach out to other rural jurisdictions to study their plans?

Ron Fithian 

I would say as far as transportation goes, we have what is called Delmarva Community Transit right now. It‘s a busing system that transports seniors and others around. It’s grant-funded by the federal, state and county government. Our contribution is roughly a hundred thousand dollars yearly. It’s not the best system by no means, and it doesn’t solve all of our problems. I think instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch with something else we should bring them before us, discuss the shortfalls and see if we can’t build on what we already have in place. The expenses would be to large if we were to try and start from scratch. By doing this, we could build on it, and hopefully make it  much better than it is today. And I think we could. This system is supported by Kent, Caroline and Talbot Counties.

Bob Jacobs

Transportation in a Rural is America is and always will be a challenge. I am sure this matter has been studied by many millions of people around the world for centuries. The first thing we would need to do is determine what kind of public transportation we are talking about. There is transportation within the town which Rock Hall does with in the town in the summer which is paid for by the people of Rock Hall.

You can have public transportation between the towns perhaps using a bus. There could be transportation with destinations outside the county connecting say Middletown or Easton as examples. I would follow this up with a survey and a business plan to show the tax payers the cost. All public transportation is heavily subsidized by the tax payer. The tax payer of Kent County would have to decide on how much money they were willing to subsidize on this matter out of there pay check. Until then we can continue our partnership with DCT.

Tom Mason

Being able to travel is an important part of our lives. Kent County is a small county with limited resources and as such cannot provide a public transport system. We can continue to support the Delmarva Community Transit and look for an entrepreneur or private business that would start such a service. It is my belief that if there is a need and it makes sense from a business aspect, it will happen. Also as a commissioner, I would support such an effort and try to make sure there are no regulations or restrictions that stop such an endeavor.

William Pickrum

As County Commissioner, I will look to expand the existing bus system through subsidies, temporarily until a more substantial system is developed. The Maryland Upper Shore Transit has established routes that can be expanded in frequency and route structure without any increase in cost to riders.

Currently, the ride cost is $1.50 for senior citizens (60+ years), persons with disabilities and all Medicare Cardholders. This should be the universal fare, subsidized by the County for all Kent County residents, if necessary.

Delmarva Community Transit (DCT) has been the county’s public transportation partner for many years. Their system relies heavily on federal and state grants. In an attempt to expand service within the county, DCT has, in addition to the route to/from Chestertown, expanded to Rock Hall. Unfortunately, there were very few riders. They attempted routes to the Community Center in Worton from Chestertown and Rock Hall with virtually no ridership.

Because the attempts did not work at the time, does not mean they cannot work today or the future. I would suggest the appointment of a citizen’s commission to address these issues.

How will you create public /private partnerships to address this issue?

The public transportation systems must be subsidized.

Building on the survey conducted by the United Way, use federal, state and local dollars to create a local bus system.
Seek a partnership with County Ride of Queen Anne’s County to expand into Kent County. Once a county system is established, encourage the development of a terminus in Millington for the Delaware Transit Corporation (DART) to connect to their extensive system.
Conduct a more comprehensive transportation survey to include more diverse demographic.

How will you reach out to other rural jurisdictions to study their plans?

The County staff has been charged to study these issues. Using the resources of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), their staffs and NACo’s rural transportation committee may provide insight into establishing a transportation system in Kent. I currently serve as MACo’s First Vice President. If elected for another term as Commissioner, I will become the President of MACo and use my extensive knowledge and contacts with other Maryland counties to find the best possible solutions to our issues. This is the first time Kent County, the smallest county in the state, will hold the President’s position.

The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that serves Maryland’s counties by articulating the needs of local government to the Maryland General Assembly. The Association’s membership consists of county elected officials and representatives from Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. MACo is the only organization serving the needs of county elected officials and governments across the state.

Representatives have attended our County Commissioner’s meetings and I’ve expressed with the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation need to develop a county public transportation system. Grant funds would require a substantial match of county funds, which I would support.

Bill Short

Mass transportation in a rural County such as Kent is a hard task. Kent County citizens currently have many options available to them for transportation, whether it be for medical needs or other reasons. A larger focus needs to be placed on reaching those in the community who need this service but who are not taking advantage of the current offerings. I have worked hard to continue to fund and support the Delmarva Community Transit Service and The Kent Family Center, both of which provide transportation. Within the County citizens also have Uber and other taxi services available to them, some of which are designated specifically for medical transportation and are covered by insurance. I will continue to work with Queen Anne’s County Transit to see if a partnership can be developed to further enhance transportation options for Kent County citizens. I also think a trolley system in the Chestertown area would be a great public private partnership that would benefit not only citizens but tourist and local businesses.

Tom Timberman

I researched the public transportation currently provided by Delmarva Community Transit Services and managed by Maryland Upper Shore Transit (MUST), and quickly learned why there is so much dissatisfaction.

The system is focused primarily on two population centers, Cambridge and Easton. Kent’s schedule is quite limited and is based on infrequent travel. In terms of going to work or appointments in Kent or another county or Chesapeake College, the schedules are too sparse. While each one-way ticket is reasonably priced ($3.00, $1.50 senior citizens and 2.00 for those 17 and under) the monthly passes are not ($80.00, $35.00 senior citizens and $40.00 students)

The county pays Community Services about $120,000/year. I believe this is a good niche local entrepreneurs could fill with a business plan focused on travel within Kent County, but with scheduled extensions to Centreville, Chesapeake College and Easton.
Non-emergency transportation to health appointments and treatments is another increasingly important aspect of Kent County’s health services deficit. Most specialists are in Centreville, Easton, Annapolis or Baltimore. While the County has a large and growing number of senior citizens, residents of all ages need physical therapy, drug rehabilitation, oncology treatment, dialysis or just a flu shot. One national statistic defines the seriousness of the problem: 1/3 of people with appointments don’t keep them because they have no way to get there.

There are two possible general transportation models that could be reviewed: The New York City “Dollar Vans” originally a private sector surge response 8-10 years ago, when the public transit system was shut down. Over time it evolved into a group of for- profit companies that continue to serve areas of New York, albeit no longer $1.00. They are less expensive than taxis or Uber or Lyft.
The second is an already proven technique for local communities with a common need or mutually beneficial joint public project, called Community-Co-ownership.

In one instance, several towns were experiencing problems shaping/regulating wind power turbine installations. Together the towns made an initial investment in the firm’s turbine-related costs and then shared in the profits from the sale of kilowatt hours. They negotiated the contractual terms together and were able to mould the exchange of obligations more to their benefit.

 

 

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. Sandra Bjork says:

    As a participant in the “Talks with the Commissioner” forum last Thursday led by Commissioner William Pickrum, I am encouraging anyone truly interested in the workings of Kent County to attend future sessions. It was very informative. We were able to ask questions and gain insight into county operations. Last week’s topic was on Kent County’s Budget. Commissioner Pickrum discussed in detail all aspects of the budget including the sources of all revenue and expenses. Pat Merritt, the County’s CFO, was present on her own time to provide facts and figures for any “in the weeds” questions that arose.

    This week’s topic will cover Transportation in Kent County, an area of importance to many County residents. The six-week series is held each Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Chestertown Library’s yellow building.

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