By March, Morgantown plans to have a free bus service to help people get around town a few days a week.
Mayor Billy Phelps said the idea for the service is to provide transportation to seniors who may not always be able to rely on other people to take them where they need to go.
âA lot of these elderly people depend on others to get around,â he said.
Phelps said he anticipates an interest in the program because the aging population of Morgantown has resulted in a steady increase of seniors who have trouble arranging transportation.
âMorgantown is obviously an aging community, and we have a lot of people who donât have a ride to the simple stuff like grocery stores and doctorâs offices,â he said.
Phelps said heâs been working to establish a bus service in Morgantown for roughly three years, though the plan couldnât fully come together until he was able to secure the donation of a van that seats at least 12 people from RTEC, an organization based in Mount Vernon.
RTECâs website describes the group as âa nonprofit corporation organized in 1990 exclusively for the purpose of planning, coordinating and operating public transportation services.â
RTEC representative did not return messages seeking comment.
Phelps said he planned to bring the van back to Morgantown either on Friday or, failing that, shortly after New Yearâs Day.
Phelps said he expects the bus to run two days a week for five hours each day, though the hours and days could later be expanded or reduced, based on need.
The bus would run on a schedule and stop at the Morgantown Housing Authority properties, where many of the seniors this program is designed for live, though the bus would also respond to calls for pickup, Phelps said.
âWe want to have a timeframe where weâll be at Housing Authority properties but in the meantime, people can call and weâll try to pick them up,â he said.
Several details about the service still need to be worked out, like determining a schedule, hiring a driver and choosing a name for the bus.
âWe havenât put it together yet because we didnât know if we were going to get a bus,â he said.
The cost to run the program is also not yet known, but Phelps said he expects the city should to be capable of handling the associated expenses, which would mainly comprise a salary and insurance for one part-time employee, gasoline costs and maintenance costs.
âWe know itâs going to cost us to run this program, but weâre looking at quality of life here,â he said.
Though some decisions still need to be made, Phelps said heâs hopeful that the program can start within 60 days.
Phelps announced his expectations for the bus service at a city council meeting Dec. 13.
City council member Sharon Johnson said she likes the idea.
âI just think it would be a really good thing for anybody who needs assistance,â she said, adding that she recalls the response from other city council members being positive as well.
Johnson also said thereâs a need for a bus program in the community, adding that people walking great distances to get to a store is a fairly common sight in Morgantown.
âItâs a really small town where you still see a lot of walkers going down to Dollar General,â she said.