Frederick County officials need to get on the bus.
They missed the chance this past week for a free ride during ďdump the pumpĒ day but, if they hurry, they still can ride for $1.10 before the rate goes up to $1.25 on July 30.
After a quick walk from Winchester Hall to the Square Corner — at about 18 minutes past the hour — they could climb aboard any of the four buses for an hour-long roundtrip.
If itís the No. 40 they choose, they likely will be entertained by driver Isaac Wilkes, an avid fisherman and fan of anything food-related. Wilkesí friendliness and concern for his riders is representative of the other TransIt drivers, and itís no wonder someone from the local crew is forever on the stateís list when it comes to selecting a driver of the year.
County officials might also rub elbows with the riders themselves — people who have a job, but no car; students needing a way to Frederick Community College; or senior citizens traveling across town to visit friends or simply getting out of the house. Riders also include the Spanish-speaking women from Hillcrest riding the No. 10 to jobs at hotels near Interstate 270, or long-time residents who remember when the bus system began with just a few simple routes — a marked difference from today when, in fiscal 2011, 836,000 rides were logged.
TransIt has been part of recent action by the county commissioners — first with the fare hike and proposed route changes, and this past week when TransIt Director Sherry Burford asked about the request to hire two drivers made in January that has yet to be addressed, even though the recently passed budget included four full-time positions.
Summer, with vacations, is an especially difficult time to schedule drivers. Then you add on sick days and extended medical leave situations. But those in charge do whatever is necessary with the current staff of 44 full-time and 25 part-time drivers to keep the buses running, even if it means someone in the office going back to the driverís seat when needed.
Public transportation is a Catch-22 proposition. You donít want to add more buses or people because not enough riders are climbing aboard, but more people arenít riding because there arenít the buses to meet their needs.
A robust public transportation system is important and TransIt officials appear to be good stewards of the program — ever mindful of ways to cut costs while still providing good service. The commissioners need to move forward with the two driver positions already funded — and take a ride to see how well the system works.