The following is a summary of the events leading up to the creation of the Transit Network and major occurrences during its 15-year history:
Formation of Transportation Committee
To take advantage of grants available in the early 1980’s for the purchase of new vehicles, the Chatham County Human Services Transportation Committee was formed and included the following organizations: Community College, Chatham Child Development Center, the Chatham County Council on Aging, Department of Social Services, Wake Opportunities – Head Start, Haywood Moncure Health Center, JOCCA, Chatham Trades and the County Manager. Chatham Trades was designated the lead organization. Chatham Trades, Chatham Child Development Center, and Haywood Moncure Health Center initiated ridesharing between their respective agencies.
After updating the Transportation Development Plan in 1989, the committee was expanded to include Chatham County Group Homes and the Mental Health Center. In addition, Chatham Trades hired the first Transportation Director to coordinate the Committee’s activities, oversee vehicle maintenance, and write grants for the vehicles. Chatham Trades received a fee to cover the expenses of the Transportation Director.
In mid 1990, the Committee began discussions on the future transportation options for Chatham County, focusing on three options:
- Continue operations as defined at that time
- Contract with a private provider of transportation services
- Establish a transportation company
Transition to Advisory Committee
The year 1992 was very busy for the Committee.
- First, they reorganized and transitioned to the Transportation Advisory Committee and elevated the coordinator’s position to Transportation Director, still under the overall management of Chatham Trades.
- The Committee reviewed the Transportation Development Plan for Chatham County and reviewed all previous plans from 1980, a total of five iterations.
- They concluded that Chatham Trades should continue as the lead organization and funded day-to-day operations by each agency paying a fee. They established fixed route schedules serving Chatham Trades, Chatham County Child Development, Head Start, Orange-Chatham Health Services, Group Homes and the Council on Aging. Chatham Trades and Chatham County Child Development initiated trip sharing between them.
- In addition, the Committee solicited input from private transportation providers to identify potential interest in providing all or part of the services required by the agencies. If sufficient interest, a Formal Request for Proposal would be issued to result in the contracting out transportation.
Management Performance Review
In 1993, the NC DOT was officially requested to conduct a Management Performance Review of the operations of the Committee. NCDOT said that it would not perform this review unless all agencies agreed upfront to become part of a totally consolidated system, if the review resulted in that recommendation…
After considerable discussion and upon recommendation of the DOT, the Committee agreed to conduct its own Management Review and to continue to look for private operators to run the system. During the year, demand for transportation increased to the point that Chatham Trades could no longer support the operation with current resources, requiring the Committee to pursue alternatives.
Consolidated Transit Options
The Committee completed its own Management Performance Review in early 1994. The review recommended consolidation of all human services transportation management by either creating a special purpose non-profit to provide the transportation itself or utilizing a private provider.
The Committee presented its recommendations to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, which authorized permission to proceed.
The Committee submitted a grant request to the Community Transportation Association of America to assist with efforts to study the feasibility of public transit for Chatham County and provide guidance on determining rates, routing and scheduling.
Nonprofit agency formed
The process moved along as Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were created and filed with the State and IRS to form a non-profit corporation and the Committee received the technical assistance grant from CTAA. Target dates were set to have the new organization in place and operational by July of 1995 and to begin operating transportation by July 1, 1996. A major benefit of the new network would be its ability to apply for additional funding to pay for vehicles and administrative costs of the consolidated operation.
Operations begin for network
Chatham Transit Network became operational in 1995. The Bylaws specified the composition of the Board of Directors, resulting in many previous members of the Transportation Advisory Committee becoming part of the managing Board of Directors. The Board of County Commissioners also appointed three members as well as a member at large from the community. The Bylaws stated that the board would have 13 to 15 members.
The Transportation Director from Chatham Trades transitioned to become the first employee of the Transit Network, which meant that coordination support was no longer required from Chatham Trades. Chatham Transit Network joined the North Carolina Public Transportation Association. Transportation services provided during this first year was the continuation of coordinated subscription service for the human services agencies.
Early Years of Operations
The Board of Directors decided to have Chatham Transit Network (CTN) contract with a third party to provide the services.
In early 1996, CTN issued an RFP to solicit bids from private transportation providers to operate the transportation system for Chatham County, with two proposals submitted. After review, CTN’s board determined that an outside contractor could not provide a low enough cost per mile to make service affordable to CTN.
The Board decided that Chatham Transit should make plans to operate the system itself, but also reviewed whether or not it should become part of a multi-county system rather than operate its own single-county system. Again, they concluded that Chatham Transit Network should run its own system.
CTN selected a location in Pittsboro as its headquarters and employees relocated to this site.
Fixed route transportation to Chatham County Human Service Agencies by the Chatham Transit Network began on July 1, 1996. This was not an easy decision. More than seven years had been spent reviewing other alternatives, including the two years after the Incorporation of the Chatham Transit Network (CTN).
Years of Growth
Finally off the ground, CTN began to grow. By offering services to the general public, CTN took advantage of grant funding.
In 1997, the Board established a committee to review future direction, which led it to open all agency subscription routes to the public, creating what is called a deviated fixed route where a passenger can be picked up and dropped off if the pickup point and destination is within 2.5 miles of the route. In addition, general public service would be provided from residential to commercial areas of Pittsboro and Siler City. Fares were set at $1 for in town service and $5 for service outside the towns. General public transportation started in 1998.
Over the next 10 years, Chatham Transit Network provided transportation service to the agencies and general public of Chatham County using the business model established in 1998.
Transformation for the Future
Today, the Chatham Transit Network is in the process of reinventing itself. It strives to maintain its roots by providing quality service at competitive prices to the county agencies that created the organization plus any new opportunities.