Knox Area Transit vehicle

MOUNT VERNON — As ridership picks up in the aftermath of COVID-19, Knox Area Transit continues to concentrate on solutions to issues identified during the pandemic.

“We continue to focus on medical trip responses,” Martin McAvoy, KAT operations manager, told the Knox County commissioners on Tuesday. “That's one thing we've had requests for … so we reorganized that a bit. It's a bit of an experiment, but it seems to be working.”

In addition to medical trips, KAT has thus far provided transportation for 32 vaccine trips.

“Another thing that was highlighted during the pandemic is the need for food delivery,” he said. “We're looking at that to see what we can do.”

Susie Simpson, mobility manager, is also exploring assistance to riders during inclement weather. Snow-covered walks, for example, are an obstacle for those who have medical conditions or are physically impaired.

“[Simpson] is talking with United Way to see if there are any grants or if they can get a policy or program in place so that we can get someone out there to clear walks,” McAvoy said. “The people can't clear them, and the drivers can't push a wheelchair through the snow.”

KAT recently filled four driver positions, but McAvoy said he would like at least another three part-time drivers.

“We're running 92 to 94 percent on time right now, but we want to be able to handle the demand,” he said.

McAvoy is waiting to hear the status on several grant applications he submitted. Funding requests cover operations and maintenance; vehicles, radios, and camera systems; GoBus; and facilities improvement.

For the facilities management grant, McAvoy requested $2.5 million to $4.9 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation to cover the cost of a larger facility. The current facility on Columbus Road is 9,500 square feet. McAvoy previously said 20,000 square feet will meet KAT's current needs but would not allow for future needs.

McAvoy said that if ODOT awards the grant, ODOT wants a signed contract by the end of September. Construction could start as soon as Oct. 1.

ODOT approval for a $500,000 grant to buy three mid-size buses to roll out GoBus' D route between Columbus and Wooster is also pending. KAT initially planned to take over the route this fall, but the rollout is delayed until 2022 due to COVID-19.

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