TARTA's pilot program for revamping suburban service will get its start Easter morning in Perrysburg.
Beginning at 6 a.m. March 31, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority will run a bus along a looping route through the city and out to the Crossroads of America shopping area in southeastern Rossford that will, on passenger request, detour anywhere in Perrysburg to make pickups or drop-offs. Service will be offered daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for a nine-month test period, with an evaluation toward the end of the test.
“I think it will prove once and for all whether curb-to-curb service is more effective for suburban areas than fixed-route service,” said Phil Caron, Perrysburg's delegate to the TARTA board of trustees. “It could be a model for other suburbs where you don't have the density for fixed-route service.”
The experiment goes back to frequent complaints Mr. Caron made to Perrysburg council members about empty and nearly empty TARTA buses passing his home - complaints that earned him council's appointment to the transit board.
At Mr. Caron's behest, the board surveyed residents last year and found 29.5 percent of respondents said they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to use a demand-responsive bus service. But 62 percent of the 475 respondents said that under no circumstances could they envision using TARTA service.
Mr. Caron said the only way he can imagine transit service becoming popular in the suburbs is if its convenience rivals that of the private automobile.
When not responding to a specific call, the new Perrysburg bus will run a route linking the Perrysburg Senior Center, River Place and Country Charm shopping centers, and the Crossroads of America plazas. When requested, the bus will deviate from that route at the point closest to the individual rider's pickup or drop-off point, then return to that point so that it will not miss any part of the normal route.
James Gee, TARTA's planning director, said the bus driver will be assigned a cellular telephone and take ride requests directly. The phone number will be announced at a later date.
For now, the custom service will be available only within Perrysburg, although Mr. Caron said he'd eventually like to see it expanded. Those wishing to travel to other points on the TARTA network will be able to transfer to the No. 10S Rossford-Perrysburg-Maumee route at the shopping plaza or in downtown Perrysburg. The No. 10S bus' route will be expanded to serve Crossroads of America and it will begin operating daily on March 31.