Spencer Township voters face one of the most important ballot decisions in northwest Ohio next month: whether to end the township’s 42-year membership in the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.
Leaving TARTA after 42 years would isolate the township, restrict mobility for seniors and people with disabilities, and disconnect employers from workers. Residents should vote NO on the question of withdrawing from TARTA, as they did, by a 60-40 margin, last year.
Township taxpayers get a great deal from TARTA. The agency provides $161,000 worth of needed services — call-a-ride and paratransit, as well as express buses connecting riders to downtown Toledo — for $88,000 a year in local taxes. Federal and state grants pick up the rest.
As one of TARTA’s eight member communities, Spencer Township pays a 2.5-mill property tax for TARTA. That costs the owner of a house valued at $100,000 roughly $75 a year.
TARTA opponents cite a lack of use, but last year TARTA reported more than 13,500 boardings in Spencer Township. These passengers include Rogers High School students, residents getting county health-care services, and employees of an industrial park.
“For some, it’s their only way to get to work and school,’’ says TARTA General Manager James Gee. “Others use it for doctor appointments and to go to the grocery store.”
Behind the ridership numbers are real people who depend on TARTA services. A recent column in The Blade portrayed Mondia Brown of Toledo, a supermarket cashier who relies on a Spencer Township express bus to get to work. Without it, she would lose her job.
In a regional economy, TARTA buses provide more than 3.4 million rides a year. They get hundreds of people in Toledo who don’t have vehicles to suburban jobs. When Perrysburg withdrew from TARTA last year, that hurt not only local residents and employers, but also northwest Ohio’s interdependent economy and regional efforts to collaborate.
If TARTA’s Spencer Township service ends, some patients at the Western Lucas County Clinic and people who use the Spencer Township Neighborhood Center would also lose their ride. The center includes a day-care center and senior nutrition program.
Moreover, Spencer Township voters should consider a recent Federal Highway Administration ruling that Beavercreek, in the Dayton area, effectively discriminated against minority residents by not allowing certain regional bus stops. The city now risks losing millions in federal highway dollars.
By voting NO on Issue 14, Spencer Township can keep needed transit services for employers, employees, and some of the community’s most vulnerable residents.