Rural Mobility Solutions

Transportation is not just an urban issue. Residents of rural communities face significant obstacles in getting around, especially in places like Wayne County, which previously, did not have any public transportation system. Social service agency Community Action Wayne/Medina (CAW/M) had filled a gap by offering a vanpool service to area residents. But without the help of technology, it was difficult to plan the best, most efficient routes and meet demand. Through The Paradox Prize, CAW/M was able to purchase innovative routing software that enabled it to build upon and improve its existing service and connect a greater number of residents to jobs and other services throughout the county.

The Details

The dynamic routing software enabled CAW/M to offer an on-demand vanpool option, which allowed multiple users with different origins and destinations throughout the county to access an affordable, efficient service. Through the use of a smart card, scanned by drivers with hand-held tablets at the start of each ride, CAW/M was able to easily track the service’s use and also layer on subsidies for residents on Medicaid or other assistance programs. Those residents using the workplace access service to get to and from a new job were able to commute for free during their first 20 days on the job.

More than 100 Wayne County residents took advantage of free or subsidized vanpool rides to around 25 different employers through the pilot. CAW/M used pilot findings to encourage Wayne County Commissioners to initiate a county-wide transportation survey in the third quarter of 2020. Residents expressed enthusiasm for transportation solutions to help them access jobs, similar to the one being piloted. This led to conversations with neighboring Stark County’s public transportation system, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), and the eventual awarding of a $1.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to support the launch of Wayne County Transit.

The Results

In October 2021, SARTA began offering microtransit transportation services to neighboring Wayne County residents. Dubbed Wayne County Transit (WCT), the curb-to-curb service is open to anyone in Wayne County regardless of income. The service marks what Melissa Pearce, retired president and CEO of Community Action Wayne/Medina, calls the county’s first “true public transit” offering. “Any county resident can get any place in the county for $2.50 a ride,” she said. “You don’t have to live on a bus loop or find a way to get from your rural residence to a bus stop, which could be miles away. This is curb-to-curb service.”

Speed North America is one Wayne County company that has benefited from the service.

Patrick Le Denmat, CEO of the Wooster manufacturing company, estimates that not a week goes by that someone can’t make it to work because of a flat tire, dead battery or carpool breakdown. “And we need those people,” he said. Monitoring demand will help Wayne County officials determine if and how they can sustain WCT long term. Pearce is most proud of driving down the user cost, which started at $8 per ride during the workplace access pilot but is now available to anyone for just $2.50.

“That’s a game changer,” she said. “It makes it much more possible for people to work out of poverty and create the lives that they and their families need.”

Excerpted from a Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland article published November 7, 2021.

Prize Money Awarded



  • Wayne County

“Many of our employees do not drive and depend on other people to get to work or other options that are typically not as reliable as Wooster Transit’s program. Wooster Transit gives them confidence knowing they can easily get to and from work and gives them hope of being able to improve their lives.”

Nicole Mourfield
Human Resources Coordinator
Speed North America