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Published: Wednesday, 4/12/2006

Reasons for bus disuse probed

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Why don't more people in Perrysburg ride TARTA?

A committee appointed by Mayor Nelson Evans is trying to answer that question.

Mr. Evans said he wants the committee to look at ways to increase the number of riders in the city or how the service could be more useful to city residents, who paid $971,000 in taxes to the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority last year.

"That's my main goal - to try to get value for the money," he said.

Last week the committee agreed that its first goal is to find out how many people ride the buses in the city.

Committee member Phil Caron, a former city representative to the TARTA board of trustees, planned to ask TARTA officials to survey buses in the city this summer. He suggested hiring an intern who would count riders and ask them a list of questions.

"I'd like to see a marketing person from TARTA on the buses every day for a month," Mr. Caron said.

The committee wants to mail a survey to all city residents, probably using a prepaid postcard, and wants to survey students at the high school.

Members brainstorming for ideas mentioned the possibility of setting up survey tables at businesses or asking drivers to pass out surveys to be mailed in.

One concern of some committee members is the requirement that the Call-A-Ride buses follow a certain route, which can make them less convenient.

Perrysburg was the pilot community for TARTA's Call-A-Ride service, under which a local bus makes a scheduled loop through the city but may deviate to make pickups and dropoffs at rider-requested locations.

TARTA has since added Call-A-Ride services in the rest of its suburban communities. But while the local shuttles have proven relatively popular compared with fixed-route service in the suburbs, Toledo still accounts for the vast majority of the transit authority's ridership.

Phyllis Morton, the city's representative on the TARTA board of trustees, said she would talk to TARTA officials about getting rid of the call-a-ride route or changing it to driving on Louisiana.

If the committee concludes after a summer of research that TARTA can't be made to work, members could convene a new group to investigate how to withdraw from TARTA and replace it with a city-funded service.

"I'd much rather find a way that we could use TARTA and make it more useful," Mr. Evans said.



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