In another shortsighted, self-defeating move, the Perrysburg City Council voted unanimously this week to put a bare-bones public transportation plan on the May ballot. The 0.8-mill, five-year levy, while better than nothing, would not begin to meet the needs of local businesses or riders who use transit to get to work.
Instead, the levy would raise an estimated $460,000 a year to pay a Missouri company, Ride Right, to run two vehicles, one for call-a-ride and one on a fixed route. A pint-sized local shuttle service cannot replace the nearly 67,000 annual boardings, including more than 6,000 paratransit users, that the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority previously handled in Perrysburg for trips around the region.
Perrysburg’s transit woes started last March, when city voters withdrew from TARTA and its 2.5-mill tax. Perrysburg contributed $1.5 million to TARTA’s $28 million annual operating budget.
TARTA service in Perrysburg ended in September. Ride Right provided interim call-a-ride service, but stopped operating after voters narrowly rejected an alternative plan — a 1.45-mill transportation levy — on the November ballot.
That plan, which would have provided limited service for people with disabilities, failed largely because city officials bungled the millage campaign. Instead of leadership, their solution now is a cheaper millage with even less service.
Perrysburg continues to isolate itself, economically and socially, while inviting lawsuits. The affluent suburb has undermined the regional transit system and, potentially, other efforts in northwest Ohio to collaborate on providing public services.
The best route for Perrysburg now is either to rejoin or, on a smaller scale, contract with TARTA. Carrying more than 3 million riders a year, TARTA already serves adjacent Maumee and Rossford, as well as six other communities.
“We’re already on the edge of [Perrysburg], and we could provide that connectivity with the rest of the region,’’ says TARTA marketing director Steve Atkinson. Other TARTA members are Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, and Waterville.
Today’s economies are regional. Successful urban areas have learned to think and act accordingly, including on transportation. A recent Brookings Institution report, however, ranks greater Toledo among the worst major U.S. metropolitan areas for having jobs in neighborhoods served by public transportation.
Perrysburg officials aren’t the only ones defaulting on leadership. Elected and nonelected leaders in northwest Ohio, including the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, should be urging communities such as Perrysburg, Oregon, and Springfield Township to join the regional transit system.
Instead, they have remained silent. It’s time for them to think and act bigger and bolder, not smaller and cheaper.