This summer, local residents may have the opportunity to ride public transit from Middletown to downtown Cincinnati with a stop in West Chester.
Middletown City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance last week that would allow the city to sign a contract with MCI of Des Plaines, Ill., and Butler County Regional Transit Authority to purchase three 45-foot commuter coaches for a total cost of nearly $2 million.
Each coach costs $603,973.39, plus a 10% contingency, for a total cost not to exceed $1,980,831.04, according to a staff report.
City Manager Jim Palenick said the purchase would be fully funded through grants and Toll Credits and at no cost to the city.
“A great program” is how he described it during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Council will vote on the second reading at its next meeting Jan. 18.
Late in 2020, Butler County Regional Transit Authority officials presented to council an idea for expanding services in Middletown to include a commuter bus service to downtown Cincinnati.
On May 18, 2021, council voted to approve purchase of five commuter coaches with MCI when the system received approval of grant funding. At that time, it was noted there was an additional grant pending for three more buses to complete the service requirements.
As part of the transit strategy, BCRTA and the city partnered with the State of Georgia for the collaborative purchase of commuter coaches and access to best pricing for those coaches through collective purchasing to recognize economies of scale, according to city documents.
Middletown has a regular fixed route public transportation — Middletown Transit System — and no fares are being collected for the third year. The loss of fare revenue is being offset by federal CARES act funding, according to the city manager.
In 2019, the last year fares were collected, the MTS received $102,504 in fares, according to Delene Weidner, director of finance for the BCRTS. She said total budgeted revenues for 2019 were $1,829,718 and operating expenses were budgeted at $1,820,907.
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.
City leaders said it’s unclear what the cost would be to ride on the new transit service to Cincinnati.
Mayor Nicole Condrey called the program “pretty exciting” and a way to possibly attract residents to the city, especially those who work in Cincinnati or West Chester.
She asked whether the bus service would provide transportation to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen said the route would stop in downtown Cincinnati, but riders could transfer and take another bus to the airport.
Council member Monica Nenni asked if there was any discussion about moving the downtown bus depot closer to I-75. Palenick said the city is considering another location, possibly in combination with an Amtrak rail station stop.
He said moving the downtown depot is on the city’s “radar.”
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