CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A lot of moving parts are in motion at the Kanawha Rapid Transit Authority.
KRT is coming up on its 50th anniversary. General Manger Doug Hartley said they were hoping to use that day to dedicate the new transit mall downtown, but that probably isn’t going to time out the way they had hoped.
“We haven’t picked a date yet. We were hoping to use the date October 25th which is actually the 50th Anniversary of KRT, but we’ll do the celebration a little bit later,” said Harley.
The work on the Transit Mall has incurred some weather-related delays and won’t be ready by the anniversary, but it will be finished soon. Hartley said it’s important since the bus system is a big deal here in the valley whether people realize it or not.
“I know all of our citizens don’t utilize KRT, but a lot of times when you go into a restaurant the wait staff or a secretary in a downtown office does ride and they provide a lot of service,” Hartley shared.
He explained the KRT service is a big part of the infrastructure of the Kanawha Valley and for every dollar spent it generates a churn of four dollars in the local economy.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for the system. Hartley noted ridership last year was off by 40%. He suspected all those who choose to ride KRT have stopped out of concern over Covid and the current riders are those who have no choice.
The pandemic cut severely into the agency’s bottom line, but federal money has lessened the impact. According to Harley, the system received more than $16 million in three separate allocations in the past year and a half to help get them through.
“They expect it’s going to take two to two and a half years to fully recover once the pandemic is over before we’re back to full ridership. A lot of people are working from home, jobs have changed, people’s travel patterns have changed, and its going to take a long time for all of that to come back on our economy,” he said.
Harley won’t be around to be part of the come back. He’ll retire later this year and said he hoped the KRT board would have his replacement on board by that time.
“They will evaluate and see how that goes. Hopefully it will be resolved soon, but if it’s not resolved by the time I leave at the end of October, then Scott Mennesey will serve as interim director until the position is filled,” he said.