Shortly before 6:30 a.m. on a glorious July morning, Clermont Transportation Connection (CTC) bus driver Craig Gortemiller awaited riders at his first stop at Walmart parking lot behind Bob Evans on Ohio Pike in Amelia. A slight breeze blew as a full moon decorated the horizon.
Gortemiller, 58, has driven the 4X Express since the previous fall when he retired from the meat business.
“I’m too young to retire,” he said, noting that his wife still works. “I got my commercial driver’s license through the county. It’s great having days off, sick time, all the benefits. Being self-employed, I never had that. I worked seven days a week.”
Gortemiller works a split shift. He does two morning and two afternoon trips in his full-time job.
Route 4X runs to downtown Cincinnati. Pickups at the first stop at Walmart occur at 5:30, 6, 6:30, 6:45, 7, 7:15, 7:30 and 7:55 a.m. as well as 4 and 4:30 p.m. (CTS also offers Route 2X in New Richmond and Dial-A-Ride Transportation Service.) There are seven return times from downtown between 3:15 and 5:54 p.m.
Route 4X includes 15 different pickup areas along Ohio Pike until I-275. Stops include the Park and Ride at Glen Este near Brandy Chase Apartments, Kroger and Amelia Olive Branch. Some are marked by signs along the road; others have shelters and parking spots. His final pickup is the Park and Ride in Withamsville.
Route 4X drops off riders starting off the 6th Street exit in downtown Cincinnati. Gortemiller’s regulars exit the bus near Procter & Gamble headquarters and Government Square.
The 5:30 a.m. early run includes mainly hospital and public service employees. Other routes mostly have riders headed to professional jobs at courts, law firms, federal government and corporate offices.
The number of daily riders varies. Due to the pandemic and high fuel prices, some employers let their employees work at one or two days per week or on alternating weeks.
“If you are driving downtown, this is the way to go,” he said. “It’s community oriented. It’s really for the people of the community. These are great people who ride these buses.”
Route 4X regular Jennifer Mann rode Metro for years, but switched to CTC when her route was eliminated. She works in the federal courthouse.
“It’s easy,” said Mann, a 4X rider for more than a decade. “I get downtown at 7. They do a great job. The people are nice. The drivers are nice. Their communication is nice. If there is an accident, they take an alternate route.”
Mann said a lot of the riders use the commute time to read. Some chat. Others prefer quiet. She has had some good conversations with Gortemiller.
“It’s so convenient,” Gortemiller said. “It’s only 20 minutes to downtown.”