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TARTA Schedules Are Due for a Drastic Reduction

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

“The actions of two trustees has blocked [continued and improved public transportation service] for a half million people,” says James Gee, president of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, as he and the TARTA board prepare to  greatly reduce that service as 2019 approaches. The Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, and Shelley Papenfuse, Long Term Care program manager at The Ability Center of Greater Toledo, are planning action to protest the cause for the reductions.

The action Gee references is the July vote by two Sylvania Township Trustees, John Jennewine and Neal Mahoney, to reject a TARTA plan to place on a county-wide ballot a proposal that would substantially alter the way the transit system is funded by local monies. TARTA has proposed shifting its local funding away from property taxes to a sales tax, the same way in which transit systems are funded in other major cites across the state and the nation.

“We know what works across the state and across the country,” he says of the proposal. “And our preference as a board is to switch to a sales tax.”

This year, TARTA put together a plan that would have dramatically altered its mass transit concept – expanding service, improving service, improving efficiency, introducing new programs and innovative technologies. It’s a plan that had been conceived after a lengthy public research study that examined not only what current and potential riders want and expect but also what a variety of public transit systems from around the nation are offering to their customers.

In order to create a strategic plan that would win the approval of member communities and the voters come election time, TARTA teamed up with Hart Associates, the area marketing firm, and AECOM, a multinational engineering firm. The new strategic plan – Move Toledo – was an effort to respond to regional changes; to address problems identified with current services; to make it easier to use public transit; to identify adequate funding and to create efficiencies if operations.

The result of that study was a plan that included advances in three key areas: core improvements – a makeover of current services and funding; technology – changes that would enhance the rider’s experience and alternative fuels to improve efficiency; new services – that would grant broader access and offer more personalized transportation options.

The area of core improvements presented the immediate impact to riders in streamlining main-line services, updating the aging fleet, enhancing services for the elderly and for passengers with disabilities and creating a citizens committee.

The key to the whole package, however, was funding – finding more funding with greater flexibility. Ultimately, a change in funding was the issue TARTA was waiting for member communities and the Board of Commissioners to approve. That change was critical, said CEO/General Manager James Gee back in the early summer, in order for TARTA to bring enhanced and improved services to more area customers.

The proposed change would have eliminated the property tax that provides 46 percent of TARTA’s funding and replace that source with a county-wide sales tax – an increase of .05 percent. There were three benefits to this change, says Gee. First, area property owners would not have to pay the 2.5 mill in taxes; second, much better transit service would be provided and, third, of the proposed .05 percent increase in sales tax, one-third of that amount would go back to the member communities for infrastructure improvements.

TARTA’s plan was to place the sales tax proposal before the voters but it first required that the elected officials of all of TARTA’s member communities – Toledo and its suburbs – approve the ballot measure. Sylvania Township, alone among the member communities, declined to place the measure on the ballot for voters to have a say in the matter.

Most Sylvania Township residents would support the new Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority proposal to expand its service area and hours and implement a sales tax to pay for the expanded service according to the results of a telephone survey conducted by Odesky and Associates of 300 likely voters in the township.

According to the survey, 46.3 percent supported the TARTA proposal, 21 percent were against it and 32.7 percent were undecided; 58 percent favored a sales tax and only 5.7 percent supported a property tax.

Now that the two Sylvania township trustees have declined to let voters decide the matter, TARTA has been forced to make drastic cuts in its service. At the end of the year TARTA will discontinue Sunday and holiday service, modify some of the fixed routes on the schedule and eliminate some early and late routes.

“Unfortunately, the cause for the financial situation is the fact that property taxes aren’t enough money to provide the same service,” says Gee noting that between 1987 and 2010, the property tax levy dollar amount to TARTA dropped by $6 million.

Brock and Papenfuse will be organizing a community meeting and have tentatively planned a protest at the Sylvania Township trustees meeting scheduled for December 16

“We are trying to get some sympathy on behalf of those who ride TARTA and TARPS,” says Brock.



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/05/18 22:17:00 -0500.

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