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Published: 7/30/2008

TARTA officials tweak routes to minimize cutback effects

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The 2X Sylvania Express picks up passengers at the TARTA station on Centennial Road. The route was proposed for elimination under TARTA's budget cuts, but officials reinstated part of the service and renamed it 2C. Altogether, officials proposed cuts to 19 TARTA routes to cope with rising fuel prices. The service reductions are expected to save about $1 million. The 2X Sylvania Express picks up passengers at the TARTA station on Centennial Road. The route was proposed for elimination under TARTA's budget cuts, but officials reinstated part of the service and renamed it 2C. Altogether, officials proposed cuts to 19 TARTA routes to cope with rising fuel prices. The service reductions are expected to save about $1 million.
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Jake Benjamin reads while waiting for the 2X Sylvania Express to leave the TARTA station on Centennial Road. He takes the 2X to his job on Monroe Street. Jake Benjamin reads while waiting for the 2X Sylvania Express to leave the TARTA station on Centennial Road. He takes the 2X to his job on Monroe Street.
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The No. 2X Sylvania Express has been Jake Benjamin's ticket to independence.

The 21-year-old with special needs uses the bus to travel from his parents' home in Sylvania Township to work at a retail store on Monroe Street.

When the line was proposed for elimination under the Toledo Area Transit Authority's $1 million cost-saving plan, the family was distressed.

"This has helped him grow," said Jake's father, Steve Benjamin. "It's a shame that a TARTA decision could change his vocational future."

TARTA officials have proposed service reductions affecting 19 routes in an effort to respond to rising fuel prices. Diesel fuel costs have increased about 67 percent since last July and service cuts are expected to save about $1 million, said Jim Gee, TARTA's general manager.

The reductions will impact service to Sylvania, Rossford, Maumee, Waterville, Spencer Township, and Perrysburg as well as Toledo, transit officials say.

In Sylvania, the transit authority is adding two trips to the No. 45X Sylvania-Maumee Arrowhead Express, a popular route.

But two routes serving Sylvania and Sylvania Township will be shortened. The No. 19T will be contracted so that it runs only as far west as Westfield Franklin Park, no longer serving Sylvania. The No. 22M will be reduced so that its last stop is in front of the Meijer store on Central Avenue.

Meanwhile, as the result of public outcry, TARTA has elected to add the No. 2C route, running once an hour between Centennial Terrace and Westfield Franklin Park.

The route will accommodate Jake and provide service to the Ability Center of the Greater Toledo Area and Lourdes College.

"We had feedback from the city of Sylvania that they needed fixed-route, scheduled transportation," Mr. Gee said. "We've reinstated part of the service from the 2X and renamed it 2C."

Despite the reductions, Sylvania City Councilman Michael Brown said he thinks the revised proposal may actually improve service to Sylvania.

"They've reinstated the route that they eliminated," he said. "I'm satisfied with the changes that have been made."

Meanwhile, Maumee and Perrysburg will be affected by the shortening of Route No. 3 - the North-South Crosstown running from Point Place to Westfield Franklin Park and as far south as the Country Charm Shoppes in Perrysburg. The route will no longer service Maumee or Perrysburg, Mr. Gee said.

Also in Maumee, the No. 34R will be reduced to eliminate the stop at St. Luke's Hospital. Meanwhile, route No. 44X will be expanded with one additional morning and evening trip, serving St. Luke's.

Maumee will also be impacted by additional runs on the No. 45X connecting Sylvania and Maumee.

In many suburban areas, TARTA has expanded its Call-A-Ride program, which allows drivers to veer off course to pick up riders on a by-order basis. The service will be used to offset reductions, Mr. Gee said.

Service to Rossford will mostly stay the same, Mr. Gee said. The only change slated for the city is the expansion of the No. 10 Call-A-Ride to include the Country Charm Shoppes and Three Meadows Apartments in Perrysburg.

The transit system is also expanding the hours of the Waterville Call-A-Ride, offering the service for an additional 3 1/2 hours from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The No. 4 Spencer Call-A-Ride, serving Sylvania and Spencer townships, will also expand hours of service from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The increase will help accommodate heavy demand of the No. 1 Sylvania Call-A-Ride.

Merle Cunningham, a Perrysburg resident who uses the bus to travel downtown for work, said his commute will be unchanged. He said he's most concerned about the proposed fare increase.

TARTA officials are considering eliminating transfers, so changing buses will cost adult riders an additional $1.

Under that proposal, the fare for Call-A-Ride will be raised from 60 cents to $1. The transit authority is also considering adding a weekly pass for senior citizens and the disabled.

The $1 adult ticket price for regular service would be maintained.

A final decision on the service reductions will be made by the end of this week, Mr. Gee said. Changes will take effect on Aug. 24. Fare changes will take effect Sept. 1.

Kathy Benjamin, Jake's mother, said she's thrilled with the progress that has been made since TARTA unveiled its reductions proposal July 17.

The No. 2C bus will run by the Benjamins' house even more frequently than the 2X, she said.

For a complete list of proposed service and fare changes, visit www.tarta.com/news.htm.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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