Panel studying gaps in local transportation, how to fill them

DAVID DYE | Allied NewsFrom left, Director of Operations Michael Nashtock with the Mercer County Regional Council of Governments, Mobility Manager Olivia Brown with Connecting Mercer County, and COG’s Administrative Transit Operations Manager Jill Boozer were present for a public meeting Thursday in Greenville that looked at transportation needs.

GREENVILLE — When looking at the challenges facing people who need transportation, Olivia Brown said the two major difficulties for local residents in need of transportation are often age and public education.

“A lot of people in the 18- to 50-year-old range don’t qualify for services because of their age, or if they don’t get medical assistance,” said Brown, mobility manager with Connecting Mercer County. “The other issue is education — just getting the word out on what services are available.”

Connecting Mercer County is a collaborative partnership among the Buhl Regional Health Foundation, Primary Health Network and the Mercer County Council Regional of Governments that is looking to find where gaps in the transportation options are and to gather public comments on what the need is, Brown said.

The fourth such public meeting was held Thursday evening in Fresh Grounds Coffeehouse in Greenville, presented by Brown, and, COG’s Administrative Transit Operations Manager Jill Boozer and Director of Operations Michael Nashtock.

While there are services in Mercer County and the Shenango Valley, not all of them can cover from the valley to northern Mercer County and the Greenville area. Bob Vanderslice with the Life Center brought up how some of the churches in the area help drive residents a doctor’s appointment, to get groceries or to counseling.

“If you have someone that needs to go to chemo or appointments, or someone that’s going through rehab or counseling, they might have someone to help but there’s many times where all of their bridges have been burned by that point,” Vanderslice said.

Healthcare providers such as UPMC Horizon and Primary Health Network have some transportation services available for their clients, though Chaplain Scott Graubard with UPMC said the patients’ families sometimes present the bigger transportation issue.

“Sometimes we have a patient who gets transferred to (UPMC Horizon) Shenango or Jameson, but it’s the family members who are trying to follow with the patient who need help with transportation,” Graubard said.

While some of the problems discussed at the meeting involved Mercer County residents who were facing difficulties with transportation due to their age or medical issues, Director of Alumni Relations David Hummel with Thiel College said one of the issues for some Thiel students is finding regular transportation to internships or jobs.

However, a larger potential issue coming up is homecoming weekend, from Oct. 11 to 13.

“We’re gonna have 1,000 people coming through the area, and I’ve heard that the local hotels are all going to be booked up,” Hummel said.

After the meeting concluded, attendants were provided with booklets containing information on different transportation services available, as well as information on a transportation survey, which Brown said has received 197 responses so far. Attendees and organizations present that help provide transportation were also encouraged to submit any data they have to Connecting Mercer County to help determine what the precise needs in the area were.

TO PARTICIPATE in the survey and possibly win a $25 gift card, visit

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