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About Ozark Regional Transit (ORT)
We Are ORT!
Ozark Regional Transit is dedicated to providing safe, reliable and affordable public transportation to both the rural and urban residents of the four county area within our jurisdiction.
The History of ORT: Ozark Regional Transit has roots in the services of the Economic Opportunity Agency of Washington County (EOA). In 1974, EOA received Federal Title XX funds to provide Dial-A-Ride demand-response transportation for elderly, low income residents of the county.
In 1977, EOA initiated one of the seven national rural public transportation demonstration projects known as "Section 147" projects. Projects of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration had been restricted to urbanized areas. The Section 147 effort was initiated in recognition of the fact that people living in small cities and rural areas also need transit service, and that the advantages of federal participation in financing such services are the same as the advantages of participation in financing large urban transit or highways for that matter.
The federal program created a powerful link among systems, enabling technology transfer, monitoring of safety and quality of service, and access to capital. Interest in expanding the service in Northwest Arkansas was high.
July, 1977 - The Equal Opportunity Organization of Washington County (EOA), a local community action program, initiated the first rural transit service in Northwest Arkansas. The service included a commuter service service 44,000 riders per year in Benton and Washington Counties, and an elderly Dial-A-Ride program servicing 13,000 riders per year in Washington Counties. The service was funded with one of the earliest Section 147 Rural Public Transportation Demonstration grans, a Tittle XX grant, and county funding.
July, 1977 - Community Resource Group, Inc., a regional private non-profit agency created by three community action programs in Northwest Arkansas to operate transportation and water/wastewater development programs, initiated a transit coordinating service - Project Respond, with a network of human service agencies in Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington Counties in Arkansas. The program scheduled 18,000 extra riders per year on existing agency vans, and established a tradition of human service agency cooperation which is maintained to the present day. The service was funded with one of five national HEW Human Service Transportation Coordination Demonstration Grants.
In 1978, Northwest Arkansas Human Concerns, Inc. changed it's name to Community Resource Group, Inc (CRG). A three year ride brokering service called Project Respond enabled the community to develop a coalition of local agencies, sharing a commitment to coordinate the use of transportation resources to maximize the availability of service for transporting disadvantaged people. Through the late 70's and the early 80's Ozark Regional Transit continued to grow and prosper, however, in 1982 the Department of Transportation designated Fayetteville/Springdale area urbanized. Because of this ORT was unable to continue the two fixed routes that were offered at the time. The company was still able to continue to deliver demand-response service, and eventually to expand access to it.
Sept, 1979 - EOA transferred its public transportation program to Community Resource Group, Inc. CRG combined the EOA service with it's coordination program, to form Ozark Public Transit. The consolidation allowed a centralized maintenance program to be established, and improved the efficiency of both services.
July, 1980 - Ozark Public Transit joined the UMTA Section 18 Rural Public Transit Program and formally became a mass transit operator.
In 1991, ORT became the recipient of Section 9 urban transit funds and daily service in Fayetteville and Springdale began. In 1993, the City of Rogers provided funds to allow mid-day services to be provided in Rogers. In the following year the cities of Springdale and Fayetteville joined in supporting transit in the region. By 1994 the City of Bentonville coordinated with the City of Rogers to bring transportation into Bentonville.
By 1995, mid-day service began in Carroll County, thanks to the cities of Eureka Springs, Green Forest, and Berryville. The Carroll County Resource Council is largely responsible for developing the service, which continues to gain in ridership. On January 1, 2002, the Board of Directors for Ozark Regional Transit contracted First Transit management service to provide the daily management staff.
By 2001, our budget was $1.6M, and the local government match was $100K. In 2013, the budget was $2.4M and the local government match was $800,000. The majority of our funding is through the Federal Transportation Administration, which includes both rural and urbanized area funding. This funding is for capital, operations, preventative maintenance and administration. All of these areas require either a 20 to 50% of local match to the federal money. However, almost all transit systems in the U.S. "over fund or over match" local money to the Federal. Our FTA rural funding is through the AHTD, and that they are a wonderful organization to work with. The amount of FTA money for the urbanized area in Northwest Arkansas is $1.8M, with $1M to ORT and the remainder to Razorback Transit. ORT has 110 square miles of urbanized service area, Razorback has 18 square miles.