Transit troubles


Perrysburg City Council has put a stripped-down public transportation levy on the May 7 ballot. The minuscule service this plan would provide might be enough to avoid a federal civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of passengers with disabilities. But it won’t meet the transit needs of most of the city’s riders or businesses.

In fact, it’s a stretch even to call this paltry proposal — 0.8 mill for five years — public transportation, after city voters withdrew last March from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, and then defeated last November a 1.45-mill tax that council members said could provide adequate service for less money.

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Perrysburg should have contracted with TARTA for limited interim service, and then put the question of rejoining the authority — and its 2.5-mill tax — on the May ballot. A local shuttle service can’t replace a system that provided nearly 67,000 annual boardings in Perrysburg — including more than 6,000 paratransit users — for trips around the region.

TARTA serves eight local communities and carries more than 3 million riders a year. Only a regional system can meet the economic and social needs of the area — including Perrysburg employers who relied on TARTA to carry employees from around the area to their hotels, restaurants, stores, and other businesses.

Last year, TARTA’s board of trustees authorized the agency’s general manager, James Gee, to negotiate with Perrysburg to provide transit service. But Perrysburg has not contacted the agency about renewing service, said TARTA marketing director Steve Atkinson.

In dealing with Perrysburg’s transit needs, council members have failed to provide leadership, common sense, or even competence. After bungling the first campaign to provide alternative transit service, they vow to wage an aggressive effort for the new ballot proposal.

But it would raise little more than half the amount of the scaled-down levy that voters rejected — a sum too small to provide adequate service by even the most efficient provider. The amount raised by the proposed levy — roughly $450,000 a year — is a third of the nearly $1.4 million previously generated by the TARTA tax.

Residents seem to have little choice but to approve the 0.8-mill plan. It would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $50 a year, and provide two buses for call-a-ride service, with a limited-schedule route. The city most likely would contract with Ride Right of Missouri, which ran a temporary call-a-ride service last September to November.

Whether they vote for the new levy, residents ought to urge the council to rejoin the regional transit system — or elect a new council. If they don’t, they’ll watch their community further isolate itself and undermine the area’s growth.