Middletown considers extending free bus fares through 2022

CARES act funding and grants would offset cost of collecting no fares to ride on Middletown Transit.

Those who ride on the Middletown Transit System may continue paying no fares if City Council approves an ordinance at its next meeting.

City Manager Jim Palenick said during Tuesday night’s meeting that the lost fares could be offset by utilizing CARES act funding and grants. He said fare revenue typically is about 6% of the transit system’s annual operating budget.

MTS operates in cooperation with Butler County Regional Transit Authority and the BCRTS board of trustees has approved going zero fare for fixed routes through 2024.

Middletown council, which passed legislation in December 2020 to allow the bus system to operate in 2021 without collecting fares. will vote on extending the ordinance one year on Sept. 21.

Palenick called receiving funds from the CARES Act and not charging riders a “windfall for the city.”

Because of the federal funding, he said “there’s no need to charge fares.”

Mayor Nicole Condrey asked Palenick about the typical user of the bus system. He said they’re “transit dependent” and they ride the bus to work, medical appointments and retail stores.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, MTS implemented a fare less system to reduce obligations for citizens experiencing financial hardships and promoting safety by limiting contact with drivers and patrons and limiting touching fares necessary for counting fare box receipts, according to city officials.

Condrey also expressed concern over the homeless riding the buses during the winter months and turning them into mobile “homeless shelters.” Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen said the bus system has operational policies so that won’t happen.

IN OTHER NEWS: Officer Denny Jordan and his K-9 Koda were recognized for their “heroic actions” last year when they apprehended Christopher J. Hubbard, a suspect in a Hamilton homicide, after he opened fire when the chase ended in the 2600 block of Mason-Montgomery Road in Turtlecreek Twp.

Condrey read a proclamation as Jordan and Koda stood next to police Chief David Birk. She called Jordan, a 22-year veteran, “an incredible officer” and a great representative of the police department.

About 25 Middletown police officers and staff lined the back of council chambers in support of Jordan. All the officers, city council members and city staff gave Jordan a standing ovation.

Earlier this year, Jordan and Koda received the Valor Award at the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) Conference in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Jordan was shot three times — in the right leg, arm and finger — Aug. 31, 2020, following a pursuit that started near 18th Avenue in Middletown and ended in Warren County.

Lamar Ferrell, pastor at Berachah Church, gave an update on Middie Way Baseball. He said the organization has held three fundamental baseball camps for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade and the final one is set for 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at Lefferson Field.

“Baseball is back in Middletown,” Ferrell told council members.

Middletown High School graduate Kyle Schwarber was scheduled to participate in the Middie Way camp on Sept. 25, but he was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Boston Red Sox.

The Cincinnati Reds Community Fund provided Middie Way Baseball 100 free tickets for kids to the Reds game on Sept. 25, Ferrell said.

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