The Lucas County Commissioners have accepted the final report from the Public Transportation Community Task Force they appointed to examine public transit in Northwest Ohio.
Chaired by Bruce Baumhower, President of UAW Local 12, the task force reviewed the strengths, weaknesses, and public transportation needs of the region. During the course of their evaluation, they considered the needs of residents, businesses, and stakeholders of Lucas County and the surrounding area and provided recommendations to elevate the regional transit system to not only accommodate existing community needs, but also adjust to meet future trends so that it will be in a position to adapt to the changing transportation landscape of the region.
“The value of an efficient public transportation cannot be overstated,” the Lucas County Commissioners said. “Public transportation is vital to the region’s economic vitality in that it directly influences wages, spending, travel time and cost, and property values of our residents. It is absolutely essential for riders who depend on the service for getting to work, employers and businesses who rely on it to get workers to their jobs, and the elderly and people with disabilities.”
The Task Force found that the current transportation system – the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Authority (TARTA) – is faced with numerous, daunting challenges, including an aging, maintenance-ridden bus fleet, a steady decline in ridership, a lack of service coverage to key locations in the region, and insufficient funding, both at the local and state level.
The Task Force made the following recommendations:
- Overhauling the TARTA brand, with changes that include adopting a new name, updating colors, graphic design, and signage, new, user-friendly website, and new vehicles and driver uniforms.
- Revamping service delivery of bus services to utilize more frequent and less confusing express routes between community hubs in high-density population areas. The reimagined pickup and delivery of passengers must be less dependent on fixed-line bus routes and move toward using on-demand smaller transit vehicles.
- Outreach to engage stakeholders and community groups that would benefit from a strengthened transit system through a planning process update.
- Replacement of the current 2.5-mill property tax with a sales tax, not to exceed 0.5 percent. A sales tax would provide necessary funding to improve operations and new services, including on-demand services and clean-slate routing, county-wide transit service, expanding non day-shift routes to assist those without personal transportation to accommodate their work schedules, bus stop improvements, rebranding, Wi-Fi service on transit vehicles, and new vehicles.
The Committee, which represented a broad cross-section community stakeholders, included: Kim Cutcher (LISC Toledo), Cheri Budzynski (Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP), Opie Rollison (Marshall Melhorn), Pastor Otis Gordon (Warren AME Baptist Church), Doni Miller (Neighborhood Health Association), Guisselle Mendoza McDonald (Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio), Angie Goodnight (Toledo/Lucas County Commission on Disabilities), Michael Hampton (community member), Dan Rodgers (Cherry Street Mission Ministry), Sam Melden (ProMedica, now Ability Center of Greater Toledo), Lexi Hayman Staples (Collingwood Arts Center) Jimmy Russell (University of Toledo student), Duke Wheeler (Wheeler Farms), Joe Luzar (Mosser Construction), Adele Jasion, CPA (Gilmore, Jasion Mahler, LTD), Demetria Simpson (Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority), and Frank Szollosi (National Wildlife Federation).
“As the chair of the Community Task Force on Public Transportation, I believe the committee has provided the commissioners with a comprehensive report that provides an overview of the issues the 18-member task force studied throughout the last eight months, as well as a full disclosure of the analysis that went into the recommendations drawn from their studies. I would like to thank the task force members for their contributions to the report,” Mr. Baumhower said.
Here is the Public Transportation Community Task Force Report.