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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

Call-A-Ride's next stop is Sylvania, township

Sylvania and Sylvania Township residents are next in line to get door-to-door “Call-A-Ride” service from TARTA.

The buses will start running in the spring, Charles Gibbons, head of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's routes and schedules committee, reported to the TARTA board of trustees yesterday.

But that route won't use new minibuses TARTA ordered last year from a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary, nor will any other.

The $4.46 million, 20-vehicle order with Orion Bus Industries, now nine months behind schedule, will be canceled because the vehicles can't meet TARTA's speed specification.

TARTA introduced Call-A-Ride service in Perrysburg 18 months ago, and initiated a similar route March 30 in Maumee.

In each community, a bus follows an assigned route around town from which it may deviate to pick passengers up or drop them off at requested locations.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said he'd been asking TARTA officials to consider extending Call-A-Ride to his city for some time.

“It's a more efficient service than a regular route” for a suburban area, Mr. Stough said yesterday. “It will be a nice addition to our community.”

In September, 1,055 riders boarded the Perrysburg Call A Ride bus - an average of 35.2 per day. That was lower than the 39-passenger daily average for August, but higher than the 28 per day who rode the route during September, 2002.

Business on the Maumee route has been weaker, but the daily average of 22 riders in September was the highest since that bus started running.

Despite ridership that barely exceeds two per hour in Perrysburg and less than two in Maumee, TARTA General Manager James Gee said he considers the Call-A-Ride routes successful.

“It's our new transportation option to our constituents who live in the suburbs,” he said. “Generally, the ridership for both services seems to be growing. It's not growing fast, but it's growing.”

TARTA prefers to run minibuses on its lightly used suburban routes, and the 20 vehicles that the Orions were scheduled to replace are now nine years old - four years beyond their intended lives.

Mr. Gee told the TARTA board that he's disappointed by the order cancellation, “but I don't want to accept a bus that has these flaws.”

The Orion II buses' top speed has proven to be 57 mph, and the TARTA order specified 60-mph capability, Mr. Gee said.

While 3 mph might not seem like a lot, minibuses often are assigned to suburban routes that involve freeway travel, he said, “and they're not going to get any faster as they get older.”

To meet the 60-mph requirement, Orion would have to install an engine that doesn't meet air-quality standards, Mr. Gee said.

Rick Solon, president of Orion Bus Industries, said he was unaware of the engine problem or of TARTA's decision to cancel the order.

“They certainly haven't informed us of that yet,” he said, declining to comment further.

TARTA probably will place a new order through Ohio's governmental purchasing program, Mr. Gee said.

In that case, March is the soonest delivery could be expected, he said.

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