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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

Get into the 'loop'

SOMETIMES it pays to re-examine hometown assets like a world-class art museum, thriving zoo, stellar library, and fascinating science center. Toledo has them all, and tomorrow residents and visitors will have a rare opportunity to see them anew via a free shuttle.

The trial shuttle run by TARTA will ferry people to four popular downtown attractions, COSI, the Main Library on Michigan Street, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Toledo Zoo. The "Family Learning Loop" shuttle will run continuously from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

If the loop draws an enthusiastic public response, the free bus ride could become a regular weekend feature in Toledo. National City Bank is donating the operating costs for the shuttle service this weekend and, if it goes well, TARTA may well seek other private donors or budget appropriations to continue the service.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, who came up with the idea, hopes the project isn't a one-time affair to bring people downtown. Establishing free door-to-door transportation to some of Toledo's cultural beacons should attract lots of community attention.

What better way to enjoy the community's rich educational facilities without driving and searching for parking? Visitors who begin their Saturday tour at COSI can even park free at the Vistula Parking Garage at Superior and Orange streets.

COSI is anxious to reacquaint Toledoans with its hands-on features and unique learning centers. It has a levy on the November ballot that COSI officials call crucial to its continuing operation.

They see the shuttle loop experiment as a great chance to raise support by showcasing everything COSI has to offer from a high-wire bicycle to a wide range of fun scientific activities.

The art museum boasts an Andy Warhol exhibit, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has a world waiting to be discovered, and the zoo has been a favorite destination in the region for years.

Sometimes it takes a creative initiative like Mr. Konop's to nudge Toledoans to take another look at their city and its cultural wealth. There's no telling what a free bus ride could begin, given the right kind of robust community support and backed by promising encouragement from local businesses willing to see it through.

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