Butler County RTA, Hamilton chamber to partner on free bus shuttle

Hamilton business owner calls Summer of Celebration shuttle ‘a win for everybody.’

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided

As part of the celebration of Butler County Regional Transit Authority’s 30th anniversary, the agency will provide limited free bus service on weekends starting next month.

And Hamilton businesses are hopeful of the opportunities this shuttle will bring.

Butler County RTA Executive Director Matt Dutkevicz and Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates announced the free pilot program that runs from June 21 to Aug. 24, which is the day of Hamilpalooza, around Hamilton’s urban core.

Dutkevicz said this service for chamber members and small businesses — called the Summer of Celebration shuttle — “is going to be a great partnership, and we hope people will come out to support the business community, ride the bus and learn a little bit about the BCRTA and what we’re doing.”

The shuttle, Dutkevicz added, the hope is to “help people get around a little easier and help patronize some of those establishments” along the High and Main streets corridor and around the Black Street bridge.

The shuttle will run from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and noon to midnight on Saturdays.

Bates said retail establishments, bars and restaurants are expected to have specials on the opening weekend. Additionally, he said, shuttle riders will get a punch card when they first use the bus where they will be entered into free drawings for things like gift cards and experiences around downtown.

He said businesses in downtown and along Main Street will keep track of business during the pilot program, and compare it with how much business is conducted prior.

Bates said that information will be used “in the future for advocacy for more public transportation.”

“We’re thrilled with this partnership,” he said. “Not only is this transportation free, it will be well publicized and will be on the Explore Hamilton app. BCRTA (information) is already on the Explore Hamilton app.”

Dutkevicz said Butler County RTA is paying for this as a pilot as the agency’s mission “is to support economic development through public transit solutions, so that’s what we’re aiming to do.”

Many business owners along the downtown and urban core corridor are excited about what the shuttle will do for the businesses on and off High and Main streets.

Tyler McCleary, general manager at Tano Bistro on Riverfront Plaza in downtown, called this shuttle service “huge.”

“Anything that gets people moving around downtown, especially those that don’t know downtown, that’s a win for everybody,” he said. “That one of the more exciting things that’s come out about this where people can see the whole downtown Hamilton scene.”

Sara Vallandingham, owner of Sara’s House at the corner of North Third and High streets, said it’s exciting to hope more people will discover her store and the other gems on High and Main streets.

“I think it’s good for the city as a whole, but as a brick-and-mortar, we certainly rely on people walking in and finding us and seeing what we’re about,” she said. “Providing transit creates an opportunity to connect the dots. As we (as a city) are growing ― seemingly businesses opening every week and a great offering of shops and places to dine and places to hang out ― it’s going to make it really easy for people to experience those things.”

The bus will also allow the chamber to extend Hamilpalooza, a festival that has historically been regulated to the booths at Marcum Park, to the bricks-and-mortar stores.

“The day of Hamilpoalooza, there will be multiple drawings that day as well,” Bates said. “We really are encouraging people to get on the bus and see what it’s like to experience easy public transportation, especially for free.”

Vallandingham said she doesn’t set up a booth at Hamilpalooza but the large festival does allow people to walk around downtown to her shop and other businesses, and is excited about the opportunities the expansion along the downtown and urban core corridor will afford the city.

Typically, Hamilpalooza allows people to walk around as they leave the festival, and Vallandingham said “now with that transit, that really is going to help (the businesses).” She said on Hamilton Flea weekends, they will pull displays onto the sidewalks to create interest on the corner, as do other businesses, as they see it as “a win.”

“Hamilpalooza will, hopefully, be on a much bigger scale,” she said.

Mayor Pat Moeller said during the presentation of the pilot program at last Wednesday’s City Council meeting he believes all of the council appreciates this.

“Thank you for this investment,” he said. “I know it’s going to be a great success. I think that pilot is going to totally, totally take off.”

For more information about the pilot program, including routes and stops, visit www.butlercountyrta.com or the agency’s Facebook and Instagram social media accounts.

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