WOODSTOCK – Residents of Shenandoah County will soon have access to a bus system that will take them to various points in the county.
In two weeks, the county will launch a new transit bus service dubbed “ShenGo Transit,” which is expected to come into service on October 4. The service, provided by Virginia Regional Transport, will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday during an 18-month “demo trial”, according to Jenna French, the county’s director of tourism and economic development.
For a $ 1 one-way ticket, passengers can travel by bus from Strasbourg in the northern end of the county to New Market at the southern end (and vice versa), or hop on and off at various stops between these two cities. Children 12 and under can travel for free.
The bus line, which mainly follows Route 11, but deviates slightly from certain areas which French said were considered to be of “community interest”, has two loops – one from Strasbourg to Woodstock and one from New Market to Woodstock – A new release from the North Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission said it would be completed every two hours. Passengers wishing to travel further north or south than Woodstock can transfer for free at one of the city’s two designated transfer points – Walmart and the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital.
French noted that there will be an option for people to call VRT to arrange for pickup from some proximity to the route if they cannot reach one of the designated stops. People unable to afford the tariff can also apply for vouchers from the Department of Social Services, she said.
The groundwork for transit service was laid from 2017, French said, when the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce and its nonprofit board began discussing the need for such a service in the county. Discussions intensified to include representatives from the county and its towns, the regional commission and the VRT as the level of interest was assessed and a feasibility study was carried out.
The initiative was sparked by the need to provide reliable public transportation for those who do not have access to a vehicle for things like medical appointments, trips to the grocery store, or commutes. back to work, but French said ShenGo Transit will be accessible to everyone.
“Once we got the cities, county and different people around the table – and there were private sector and nonprofit people as well at the table from the start – not only did we talk about the services and community needs perspective, but we talked about it from a tourism perspective and that it has the ability to help anyone, ”French said in a telephone interview last week. “If we have visitors who come to town and stay in Strasbourg, for example, but want to come and do something in Edinburgh, they can take that transport and not have to worry about driving themselves. We have local residents talking about being able to use it to get to some of the local breweries and things like that and not having to worry if they have a beer and get in the car and drive. It is truly meant to serve everyone in the county and we are very proud of it. “
Phil Thompson, VRT’s director of operations, said at the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors meeting last week that the buses used for the service could accommodate 14 people, 12 if a mobility device is required for a passenger.
Karen Taylor, senior director of projects and operations for the NSVRC, told Mount Jackson City Council in an update on the service last month that three buses would be in use, one serving as a standby.
During the 18-month demonstration trial, 80% of operating expenses will be covered by the demonstration program from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, French said.
ShenGo Transit has a total budget of $ 449,267, although Shenandoah County and its six cities will each pay a fraction. The county’s share (excluding cities) stands at $ 47,623, or about 10.6% of the overall budget, which French told supervisors last week was a “pretty remarkable return on investment when you look at these funds raised “.
County towns will collectively pay a similar amount (costs for each locality vary based on population) and outside of the $ 359,414 covered by DRPT, the remaining costs will be paid for through private sector funding and tariffs.
According to the press release, ShenGo Transit has received “generous support” from local sponsors including RideSmart, Valley Health / Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, New Market Poultry and Walmart.
French told supervisors that after the 18-month demonstration period, further grant opportunities could be sought to help pay for the operation of the service.
“We hope that if this is successful we will continue to develop this service over time,” French said last Thursday. “Maybe that will mean extra hours added to it. Maybe it means adding Sunday service. We also talked about future projections, it would be amazing to be able to run the service up to, say, Lord Fairfax Community College (in Middletown), where it could be a connector for other regional transit systems in the north Shenandoah Valley. So ideally one day someone could potentially take the transit from Mount Jackson to LFCC and then take a bus that would take them to Winchester or Front Royal.
French added that the ability to transport county high school and Triplett Tech students who are double enrolled in LFCC (soon to become Laurel Ridge Community College) to the latter’s campus via the new bus system would be a “big one.” asset “.
French praised Taylor and his work on the project during last week’s presentation to county supervisors, calling Taylor “truly a transit wizard” and adding that “we wouldn’t be here today. If it weren’t for her and her desire and willingness to move us forward and work with us.
Brandon Davis, executive director of the NSVRC, reiterated to supervisors that the regional commission will remain involved in the transit service after its implementation and, like French, praised the VRT, which provides similar services in statewide, including the Front Royal Trolley.
“They’ve perfected their art, I would say, when it comes to rural transit systems and we have the most confidence in them as an entrepreneur,” Davis said. “And we also benefit from their experience, but also from their network of buses and human and legal resources, of grant writing – everything they have in their organization is much larger than this one route. “
Thompson told supervisors last week that VRT had established a local office in Woodstock and procured the buses, although he said the pandemic had made it difficult to find bus drivers. He noted that the size of the buses used does not require drivers to have a commercial driver’s license, which facilitated the recruitment process.
Thompson noted that VRT has focused on further benefits for Shenandoah County by hiring local drivers and signing a memorandum of understanding with Holtzman Corp. for the preventive maintenance service of its buses and for fuel.
“We want to be a good partner, to make sure your residents and guests can access medical centers, stores, goods and services and everything,” said Thompson. “It’s going to be a great service. We look forward to providing it.
More information can be found by visiting ShenGoTransit.com or by calling (540) 715-5706. ShenGo Transit is also on Facebook.