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Published: Thursday, 11/18/2010

TARTA's loop

When James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Service, plugged the 1-mill property tax on the November ballot, he said: "Look around: You'll be surprised by how many people you know depend on TARTA."

Now, TARTA is thinking about getting rid of the five-station downtown bus loop in favor of a single station. So we say: Ask around. Make sure any change benefits riders and not just the bus service's bottom line.

The loop was created in 1982 to serve a still-vibrant downtown. No matter where you were going, you could catch your bus at any of five stops on Jefferson Avenue and Erie, Jackson, and Summit streets.

Times have changed. Toledo's downtown boasts neither the pedestrian traffic nor the number of workplaces it supported nearly three decades ago. Still, it is difficult to see how going from five stations to one - on Jackson - can be deemed progress. Mr. Gee acknowledged as much when he called the proposal "right-sizing our operation," which is code for getting smaller to save money.

The timing feels off. Downtown Toledo is becoming a destination again, thanks in large part to the popularity of the Fifth Third Field's Mud Hens and Walleye hockey matches, concerts, and other events at Huntington Center.

Those venues, plus Imagination Station, the SeaGate Convention Centre, the Valentine Theatre, and others have spurred the growth of nearby restaurants, taverns, night clubs, and other businesses.

TARTA should try to tap into that growth. Instead of encouraging downtown ridership as an inexpensive, easy, and safe way to get to games, concerts, and other entertainments, this proposal, whatever its true merits, feels like a retrenchment, a consolidation, a shrinking of service.

A more important consideration, however, is how the change will affect senior citizens, the disabled, and low-income area residents who depend on TARTA. For some, it may mean having to change buses, which could mean an additional fare for riders who don't have a bus pass.

How many people would be affected is not known. However, TARTA officials should make every effort to find out - and reconsider if necessary - before committing to the change.



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