Given the tumult at TARTA
that she encountered, it was necessary to hit the ground
running – a tax renewal levy is on the ballot for March 17,
the surrounding communities need to be convinced about the
virtue of investment in public transit and people everywhere
need to find their way back on board.
So, on Dunham’s wish list
is a goal to “get everyone thinking about working towards
the future – to break the paralysis and get some synergy and
energy going,” she says.
As desperate as the TARTA
situation might seem to naysayers, Dunham is optimistic and
“has a great hope for the future.”
First task, among so many
tasks that might be considered to be priorities, is getting
the renewal 1-mil property tax levy passed in the March 17
primary. The 10-year renewal is absolutely vital for TARTA
to maintain its current level of funding.
At the same time, a lot of
buses are getting old and need to be replaced and there is a
fundamental lack of modern technology in the fleet to meet
the needs of riders. For example, fare boxes need modern
technology, says Dunham, to accept cash, cards, smart phone
The challenges are in
building community support, upgrading the product and
raising more operating and capital monies, all in the
immediate future. Fortunately, Dunham knew what she was
getting into before she accepted the position. She’s spent
the past 30 years in mass transit systems in Connecticut,
the last five and a half years leading New Havens’ systems
and before that in Hartford. She speaks of the value for a
community that a good mass transit system can deliver – the
economic development; the mobility for the community for
work, for food, for education; the enhanced quality of life.
That added value of a good
mass transit system is the message she is delivering to the
various neighborhoods that comprise the transit system.
Dunham, faced with some immediate needs also has to look
long-term, especially as far as raising funds is concerned.
The long-term plan is to place another levy on the ballot
during this upcoming November general election.
This levy request will ask
the voters to approve a replacement – a replacement for the
property tax levy presumably approved in March – for a sales
tax levy. To place such a request on the ballot, TARTA needs
the support and approval of all of its member communities
and, over the past few years, that approval has been lacking
from the Sylvania Township Board of Trustees, who haven’t
even allowed the voters in their township to voice their
Should the trustees in
Sylvania Township relax their opposition, the sales tax has
a reasonably good chance of succeeding, according to polls
taken months ago. Should the sales tax levy pass, TARTA can
look forward to the major capital improvements to move the
system into the modern age.
For the Toledo area
community, the benefits of a well-funded TARTA system are
boundless, says Dunham. At the moment, for example, TARTA
and Toledo Public Schools are trying to reach an
accommodation in which high school students who hold TARTA
passes permitting them to get to and from classes, can also
use such passes for any and all occasions – sports,
recreation, community activities and so forth.
That’s among the quality
of life issues that TARTA can bring to the community, says