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PARTA's Campus Bus Service Connects More Than Just the Campus Community

Posted March 28, 2011 | Jaime Ramos
LEADSPARTA
A rendering of the new transit facility.

The Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA) is a vital tool for not only Kent State students, but also the surrounding Kent and Portage County communities. The transportation authority is both a way to get around and an economic catalyst for the Kent Campus and the community that surrounds it.

Students and faculty are provided with nearly around-the-clock transportation to and from campus. PARTA currently runs routes around the entire campus and to all of the on-campus parking facilities.

PARTA also makes a difference in students’ lives by employing more than 60 Kent State students, according to W. Frank Hairston, PARTA’s marketing and customer service director.

One outstanding feature of PARTA is the Student Accessibility Transportation Service. The service ensures that students with disabilities can get between their residence halls and classrooms safely and easily. The service is provided on weekdays and Saturdays during the fall and spring semesters. Even students who are temporarily incapacitated (for example, have a broken leg) are eligible to use the service.

PARTA also includes transportation to many surrounding communities such as Stow, Ravenna and Hiram. PARTA travels as far as Akron and Cleveland. And the larger buses have bike racks, for rider’s convenience.

PARTA is constantly making improvements to its system. Coming changes include a touchless fare card system, and a “real time” application for smart phones in order for people to see where buses are at any given time.

In addition to providing numerous on- and off-campus bus services, the transit authority is also participating in downtown Kent redevelopment. The U.S. Department of Transportation provided Kent with a $20 million grant to construct a multimodal transit center, known as the Kent Central Gateway project. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio was present last year to make the announcement to officials from the city of Kent, Kent State University and PARTA. Last year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Kent to tour the site of the future improvements.

“The Kent Central Gateway is a great opportunity for PARTA to establish a much-needed transfer center in the heart of downtown Kent,” Hairston says.

The current transfer center is located on C-Midway in front of Kent State’s Reserve Officer Training Corps building.

The project is intended to benefit the Kent community and Portage County, as well as Kent State students. Kent Central Gateway is designed to not only increase busing efficiency but also boost the economy, providing job opportunities and “a more centralized access to the downtown area for students and PARTA riders,” Hairston says.

A group composed of members from Kent State, the city of Kent and PARTA first outlined the Kent Central Gateway projectin 2004. In 2006, the Kent Transportation Citizen’s Advisory Committee submitted a Purpose and Needs Statement for a multimodal facility. Preliminary engineering and architectural plans required adjacent infrastructure improvements and required environmental site assessments were all completed in 2009.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chose the Kent Central Gateway to be the recipient of a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant on Feb.17, 2010. Funds from that grant support the redevelopment initiative.

The multimodal facility will be built between Haymaker Parkway, Main Street and Depeyster Street. Groundbreaking is slated to occur on April 4, 2011.

Hairston believes the Kent Central Gateway, part of the Kent Bicentennial Plan, will be vital to the Kent community’s success.

“The economic development of the downtown Kent area will be phenomenal. We already have Acorn Alley, which is visited by the people of Kent and people from out of town. Growth in our downtown area can only expand and bring stability to the already existing vendors,” he says.

For more information on the Kent Central Gateway Project, visit http://www.kentcentralgateway.com/index.html.

For further information on PARTA, visit www.PARTAonline.org.

By Jaime Ramos