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Published: Saturday, 1/3/2004

TARTA garages lunch trolleys until March 29

Citing traditionally weak ridership during the colder months, TARTA has suspended its downtown lunch trolleys for the second straight winter.

The shuttles, which run between 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. on weekdays and follow two routes linking downtown office buildings with nearby clusters of restaurants and the Erie Street Market, will resume service March 29.

At that time, TARTA plans to post more visible signs with more information to promote the service.

During 2003, 6,234 passengers boarded the lunchtime shuttles, which usually run with TARTA s trolley-styled buses and cost a quarter to ride. That was 1,584 fewer than in 2002.

About 500 of that drop is because of the cessation of trolley service in January and February, said Stephen Atkinson, the transit authority s marketing director. Part of the rest could be attributable to the absence in 2003 of free-lunch drawings that TARTA held for shuttle riders in 2002.

This year s seasonal shutdown will be nearly a month longer than last year s. TARTA officials long have conceded that downtown luncheon service is a money-loser, but consider it a contribution to central Toledo revitalization efforts.

A recent study commissioned by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments suggested re-establishing a downtown streetcar route for the central business district. So far, however, that $35 million proposal has not advanced beyond the idea stage.

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