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TARTA Task Force Set to Start Work on Reviving Transit System

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

Last week, the Lucas County Commissioners announced the formation of a blue ribbon citizens task force whose members have been asked to confront the concerns about public transportation in the wake of the recent cuts the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority has made to its services.

“This is the time to make big things happen … with solutions, ideas and innovations,” said Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak as she introduced the members of the task force. “Every community that does well ha a strong transit system,” she added.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken was more pointed in his remarks about the transit issue facing local residents. “We are in a crisis – acute and immediate – a crisis that started two Sundays ago,” said Gerken. “TARTA isn’t working for everybody; it’s a public transit system that is broken and maybe beyond repair.”

Gerken noted that the task force has been asked to accomplish three things – get the transit system working now; find out what is next for it; determine what might be the model for a system in the long run that “we will all want to ride and not just a system for the poor, the disabled and the working poor.”

The members of the task force are: Kim Cutcher, Local Initiatives Support Corp. executive director; Cheri Budzynski, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP; G. Opie Rollison, Marshall Melhorn; Rev. Otis Gordon, Warren A.M.E. Church senior pastor and certified public accountant; Doni Miller, Neighborhood Health Association CEO; Angie Goodnight, Information and Community Outreach Coordinator for Ability Center of Greater Toledo; Michael Hampton, Getting Ahead While Getting Out; Dan Rogers, Cherry Street Mission Ministries president and CEO; Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12; Sam Melden, director of Metro Region Volunteer Services for ProMedica;  Alexis Hayman-Staples, Toledo Pride/Collingwood Arts Center executive director; Drew Williams, University of Toledo Student Government president; Duke Wheeler, Wheeler Farms; Joe Luzar, vice president Business Development at The Mosser Group; Adele Jasion, accountant/owner of Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD; Demetria Simpson, president and CEO of the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority; Guisselle Mendoza, president of Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio, and Frank Szollosi,  National Wildlife Federation’s Regional Outreach Coordinator.

TARTA’s management has cited funding issues for its decision to reduce its services at the start of the year – eliminating Sunday and holiday service entirely, cutting back on some early and late weekday routes and shutting down some routes entirely.

Much of TARTA’s funding – 46 percent – comes from local property taxes. This funding has been greatly reduced over the years – by $6 million between 1987 and 2010. In 2018 TARTA teamed with a local marketing firm and a multinational engineering firm to create a new plan that would essentially replace property tax funding with an area sales tax.  It’s a plan, noted TARTA CEO Jim Gee, that most major cities use for funding public transit systems.

TARTA’s proposal needed to be placed on the ballot for approval by area voters but trustees in Sylvania Township, alone amongst the member communities that TARTA services, nixed the idea of letting voters approve the plan even though polling had shown that most voters in the township would have approved.

Commissioner Gary Byers noted the funding issue when he spoke during last week’s press conference. “It’s a different time for public transportation – in Ohio only $.63 is spent per person for public transportation.” Byers noted how little that amount of public spending is compared to other states, such as Illinois which spends more than $200 per person annually.

While TARTA representatives will not be part of the task force, Skeldon Wozniak noted that the public transit company has indicated that it will be “cooperative and ready to assist,” she said. “We are relying on TARTA for information and they understand that being available is part of this process.”



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/24/19 13:38:43 -0500.

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