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
“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
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
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