City of Athens and Ohio University announce pilot program to improve transportation access

The Bobcat Pass pilot program is intended to significantly increase access to a large population within Athens County.

Photo courtesy of: Athens Public Transit

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City of Athens and Ohio University announce pilot program to improve transportation access

Access to public transportation on campus and throughout Athens County is about to be improved for all Athens-based students and employees with a valid Ohio University identification card. 

Today, City of Athens Mayor Steve Patterson and Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis announced a pilot partnership that will allow the Ohio University ID to serve as a fare card for unlimited travel on the Athens Public Transit (APT) system beginning July 1, 2016. The Bobcat Pass pilot program is intended to significantly increase access to a large population within Athens County. The pilot phase will last one year and will be funded by Ohio University’s Transportation and Parking Department.

“This partnership will allow the City and University to share infrastructure and other costs while working to reduce traffic pressure and improve access to and from key areas of campus,” said President McDavis. “We will be able to streamline communication about service changes or outages which we have every reason to believe will lead to increased safety and commuter satisfaction.”

“This partnership may be the leverage that Athens Public Transportation and HAPCAP needs to become recognized as a Regional Transit Authority,” explained City of Athens Mayor Patterson. “It is encouraging to learn that we may see other possible growth as a result of this effort through additional bus stop locations, improved signage, and the addition of Park and Ride sites.”

Both Mayor Patterson and President McDavis applauded the work done by Michael Lachman, Marty Paulins and their respective staffs at HAPCAP and OU Transportation and Parking for developing the details of the pilot program. Ohio University has until June 15, 2017 to extend the program beyond the pilot phase. The maximum cost to the University for the one-year pilot is $80,000.

The Bobcat Pass program includes data collection regarding commuter behaviors and that is expected to help HAPCAP optimize routes in the long-term. University and City of Athens leaders will evaluate the program’s efficacy in early spring 2017. University and City officials anticipate that pilot phase assessments will produce sustainable solutions to city-wide transit concerns. According to data obtained from the Office of Sustainability, Transportation-related emissions from commuters accounted for 10,045 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in fiscal year 2015. That equates to approximately 6% of institutional greenhouse gas emissions annually. If commuters begin choosing Athens Public Transit in favor of single occupancy vehicles as their preferred mode of transportation to campus, institutional greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting could be drastically reduced. 

In addition to increased City and University partnerships, this program will directly address a “Recommended Strategy” outlined in Benchmark #27 of the University’s Sustainability Plan which calls the University to “develop and implement a University/City Transit Partnership.” It will address a significant number of institutional sustainability goals as outlined in the institution’s Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Plan as well as improve scores on national reporting systems such as the Carbon Commitment and the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. The city’s sustainability commission has also identified this transit strategy as a key goal of their draft sustainability plan and is encouraged to see Ohio University and The City of Athens partnering on more transportation and mobility projects such as this.

This announcement is coming on the heels of recent and planned upgrades to other alternative transportation opportunities throughout Athens County. In 2015, Ohio University completed repairs to their section of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway and the City of Athens was designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Additionally, the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway Committee recently announced that the Athens City County Health Department will assist in the acquisition of new wayfinding signs and mile markers within the coming year.