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Kanawha Regional Transit Authority could see upgrades

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The transit system in the Kanawha Valley could see improvements next year, pending recommendations from a consulting firm conducting a planning study for the Regional Transit Authority.

Marlene Connor and Jim McLaughlin, planners with Wendel Companies, are currently analyzing everything about KRT's operations, from routes to fares to the experience of riding a KRT bus. From that work, the planners will develop short-term and long-term recommendations for KRT to use.

The strategic planning study will "set the stage to move forward in the future," Connor told the KRT board at its meeting Thursday.

Connor and McLaughlin have been in the region since June and will continue to work until the study is complete in February.

"It's our view that all the pieces of this system need to fit in a way that makes sense," Connor said.

In providing a plan for KRT to use in the future, planners will take into consideration local, regional and national trends.

For instance, Connor said the national trend of younger people forgoing private automobiles in exchange for public transportation has not skipped over West Virginia. In fact, Connor said the national demographics "are true in West Virginia, too."

On a regional level, planners and the KRT board discussed the relocation of Putnam and Lincoln counties to the Huntington Metropolitan Statistical Area from the Charleston MSA. The change significantly reduced the population of the Charleston MSA, which could result in less grant money being available.

"There's a lot of moving pieces," Connor said. "A lot of things are changing."

The planners will also provide suggestions for how KRT can increase use, not just from an operations standpoint but from a community viewpoint as well.

"We think that for public transportation to be successful, it has to be better received in the community," McLaughlin said.

The plan will be released early next year, in time for KRT to decide which recommendations, if any, to incorporate in its budget for the following year.

In other business, the board received the results of its annual audit from the Gibbons & Kawash accounting firm, which contained no negative findings.

"There's nothing in here that's bad news," said Rob Adams, a representative of the firm.

The audit also reported that the KRT pension plan is 86 percent funded. Adams said that is high compared to other government agencies.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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