The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority provides Rossford with an integrated public transportation service at below cost, the city’s transportation consultant told city council members last week at a special meeting.
Rossford's taxpayers pay $302,000 a year for TARTA, but that service costs TARTA $537,000, Lynda Conway, an associate with Delta Development Group Inc., told council members at a committee-of-the-whole meeting called to discuss TARTA.
Ms. Conway described TARTA’s fares as “excellent,” and said, “Rossford is getting more than it pays for” and that disabled riders reported satisfaction with the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service, or TARPS, run by TARTA.
Rossford City Council has been mulling whether to put the question of leaving TARTA to the voters. It also has been studying the desirability of replacing TARTA with its own public transit should taxpayers approve withdrawing from the regional transportation consortium.
Ms. Conway said 87 percent of respondents at a Rossford meeting held to get input on TARTA said they did not use public transit or understand the services available. In 2011, the average weekly TARTA ridership in Rossford was 96, and a significant number of riders did not live in Rossford, but presumably worked there.
Council’s ad hoc TARTA committee that’s examining whether Rossford could save money by operating its own public transit in conjunction with Perrysburg’s new service, found that the city was getting an even better deal with TARTA. It recommended that the city stay in TARTA.
The committee report said the city treasury annually recoups $95,000 of the revenue generated by Rossford’s 2.25-mill TARTA tax through the tax increment financing district established in the Crossroads. This effectively lowers the annual cost of TARTA to a little more than $200,000. But if Rossford started its own bus service, the TIF payment would be lost.
Perrysburg’s TARTA service ended in September, six months after voters approved withdrawing from the agency and after years of complaints about high costs and empty buses. But Perrysburg’s annual cost of being in TARTA was $1.5 million, an amount it shaved to $450,000 by adopting its own bus service, which has a July 1 tentative start date. Rossford’s TARTA committee found that a service using Ride Right LLC, Perrysburg’s private bus company, would cost $410,000 during the first year alone and require a 4-mill levy.
Perrysburg is the only community to leave TARTA. Special state legislation permitting communities to exit TARTA without the unanimous permission of the other member communities sets a Nov. 5 deadline for deciding.
Rossford Councilman Robert Ruse, a member of the ad hoc committee, said the TARTA service contributed to economic development and Rossford paid less than other municipalities for public transit.
Council Members Jerry Staczek and Chuck Duricek supported putting the question leaving TARTA to the voters. At its regular meeting after the committee gathering, council then gave a second reading to a resolution accepting the TARTA committee's recommendation that Rossford remain in TARTA.