Two questions on the fall ballot in Lucas County ask voters in Sylvania and Spencer townships whether they want to withdraw their communities from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. Leaving TARTA would isolate the townships, restrict mobility for seniors and people with disabilities, and disconnect employers from job-seekers. Sylvania Township residents should vote NO on Issue 15, and Spencer Township residents should vote NO on Issue 14.
TARTA is suing the Lucas County Board of Elections over a law that would exclude residents of the city of Sylvania from also voting on the opt-out question. Having the intertwined township and city vote together makes sense, and it would almost certainly improve the chances of rejecting a withdrawal.
Either way, dropping out of TARTA would be shortsighted and self-defeating. Through TARTA's 2.5-mill tax, Sylvania Township property owners contribute $1.9 million a year to the authority's $28-million budget.
Regional bus service provides more than 170,000 rides a year in Sylvania, including nearly 30,000 para-transit trips for seniors and people with disabilities. The owner of a $100,000 house in all TARTA communities pays $87.50 a year for transit services.
Without those services, businesses, shopping destinations, and attractions in Sylvania Township would suffer — including the YMCA, Walmart, Centennial Terrace, Wildwood Medical Center, and Shoppes of Mayberry Square.
Cutting TARTA out of Sylvania Township also would reduce residents' access to nearby Lourdes University, Flower Hospital, Sylvania Municipal Court, and the Sylvania Senior Center.
Spencer Township contributes $87,323 a year to TARTA. For that, it gets para-transit and call-a-ride service handling nearly 12,000 rides, as well as dedicated line service to a small industrial park.
The Lucas County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously this month to urge Sylvania Township voters to stay in TARTA, citing the economic benefits of regional transit. TARTA, which serves eight communities and provides more than 3 million rides a year, helps drive the region's economy, but needs to grow.
A recent Brookings Institution report ranks metro Toledo among the worst major U.S. metropolitan areas for percentage of jobs in neighborhoods served by public transit. In suburban Toledo, only one-third of jobs are transit-accessible, depriving too many businesses of potential workers.
One of TARTA's member communities, Perrysburg, dropped out earlier this year, undermining the regional system and eroding efforts in northwest Ohio to cooperate and collaborate. A mischievous state law enacted last year gave TARTA member communities the power to withdraw, without the other members' consent, if such a vote is held no later than Election Day, 2013. TARTA's other members are Maumee, Waterville, Ottawa Hills, Rossford, and Toledo.
Area communities should be deciding to opt in, not out, of TARTA. The location and density of Oregon and Springfield Township make them logical candidates for the regional transit system.
Strengthening and expanding TARTA will become more difficult if Sylvania and Spencer townships exit. For the good of township residents, and the entire region, they should stay on the bus. Vote NO on Issues 14 and 15.
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