The issue: Mass transportation

The Ohio Department of Transportation said last week that it will work harder to align its aid to the 61 public transit agencies in Ohio with the needs of mass-transit passengers around the state.

This effort is bound to have an impact on Stark County because of the importance of the countywide bus system to workers, students, older residents and other regular riders.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, ODOT plans to craft a long-term strategy that matches its funding distributions with what it learns from a study of demographic and travel trends.

In our view, this is a timely project statewide for two reasons: ODOT can assess the lingering effects of the slow economy on mass-transit ridership, and it can see whether there is an evolving need for public transportation in rural areas that are benefiting from the oil and gas drilling boom.

As an additional benefit of the study, ODOT will be in a position to share with all of the agencies the best practices it discovers. The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, for example, can offer a wealth of information on the impact of using natural gas-powered buses.

This is smart planning on ODOT's part, and it reinforces our perception that the Ohio Department of Transportation may be the most progressive administrative bureaucracy in state government.

ODOT is looking forward, and we're looking forward to discovering what it learns from the mass-transit study.