Rossford City Council voted properly, and prudently, last month to keep the community in the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. That’s where the ride should end.
Council members recognized the economic and social benefits of regional mass transit. Moreover, they understood, after months of study, that Rossford residents are getting a pretty good deal from TARTA.
City taxpayers pay TARTA $305,000 a year through a 2.25-mill property tax. But they recover $95,000 annually through a tax increment financing district, reducing the actual cost of TARTA’s Rossford service to little more than $200,000 a year. That cost offset would be lost if Rossford withdrew from the transit authority and hired a private company to provide service.
For that amount, TARTA takes care of roughly 60,000 boardings a year in Rossford. That service gives local residents a link to the region, and gives local employers — including an industrial park, a shopping center, and an adjacent casino in East Toledo — access to qualified employees who live outside Rossford.
An outside public transit consultant concluded that Rossford is getting its TARTA service below cost. A city council committee recommended that Rossford remain a TARTA member, after finding that a contract with a private provider would cost twice as much. And no local shuttle service can provide the regional connections that Rossford’s residents, employers, and employees need. So what’s the problem?
A group called “Citizens’ Choice” wants to collect enough signatures through an initiative petition to put the question of TARTA membership on Rossford’s Nov. 5 ballot. Under state law, this is the last year communities can leave TARTA without the unanimous permission of other member communities. In a shortsighted move, Perrysburg has withdrawn from TARTA.
The transit authority serves eight local communities and provides more than 3.4 million rides a year, says TARTA marketing director Steve Atkinson. If Rossford residents have a problem with TARTA service, they ought to direct the city council to sit down with TARTA management and fix it.
Citizens Choice says TARTA isn’t the issue. They insist they just want residents to have a chance to vote on membership in the regional transit agency.
Given the circumstances, opponents are more likely ideologues who oppose public transportation and the taxes needed to pay for it, regardless of the benefits. Either way, a referendum on TARTA is no more needed than a referendum on a street-paving or road-widening project.
Rossford voters elected city council members to make sound decisions for their community. In voting to remain in TARTA, that’s just what they did.