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Published: Friday, 7/18/2008

TARTA mulls service cuts

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus service would be reduced by about 7 percent, primarily affecting suburban routes, under a cost-cutting plan developed by agency staff members that will be the subject of public hearings next week.

Most prominent among the service cuts are elimination of the No. 2X Sylvania Express and No. 3 Crosstown routes except for rush-hour service, and elimination of Route 34R service along River Road. Many other routes are to be modified to varying degrees, and a few routes will be expanded.

To a large degree, the plan places heavier reliance on the Call-A-Ride routes to serve the transit authority's suburban riders, TARTA General Manager James Gee said.

And those Call-A-Ride patrons will pay more: the transit authority is proposing to eliminate the special 60-cent fare for those routes in favor of charging its regular $1 on all routes.

While that $1 base fare would be retained, the plan also calls for eliminating bus transfers, which now cost 10 cents. Except for those using weekly or monthly bus passes, passengers connecting from one route to another would pay $1 for each bus they board.

If approved by the TARTA board of trustees, the changes will take effect Aug. 24.

Both the service cuts and the fare "structure changes" are intended to soften the blow of skyrocketing fuel costs, Mr. Gee said.

Transit officials gave the same explanation for service cuts that occurred in June which included consolidation of East Toledo routes and a re-duction in off-peak and weekend service.

TARTA's fuel cost of about $3.99 a gallon is 67 percent higher than the $2.39 a gallon it paid at this time last year, he said.

With transit buses consuming about 1.3 million gallons of gas a year, its fuel expenses this year easily could be $1.5 million or more than they were in 2007.

Hearings on the route changes will be at noon and 6 p.m. Thursday at the transit authority's headquarters, 1127 West Central Ave.

A hearing on the fare changes is scheduled for noon July 30, also at the TARTA offices.

Only after the hearings will the proposal be reviewed by the transit trustees, who are scheduled to meet Aug. 7.

As proposed, the service changes will reduce TARTA's overall bus-hours by about 26,000 annually, or 7 percent of current operations, Mr. Gee said. With each hour of service costing about $40, that is expected to cut costs by just more than $1 million.

Mr. Gee said he does not expect any layoffs because work force reductions attributable to the changes can be accomplished through attrition.

The No. 2X bus will be redesignated the No. 39M and operate three outbound trips from downtown Toledo during the weekday morning peak and three inbound trips each weekday evening.

The new No. 3 Crosstown will operate only between Westfield Franklin Park and the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, and run only from 6 to 8:45 a.m. and 3 to 5:45 p.m.

Routes slated for expansion include the No. 16 service in North Toledo, which will be extended to the Chrysler assembly plant and supplier park north of I-75; the Nos. 28 and 30 buses in central Toledo, which will be extended to UT's Scott Park campus, and the No. 44X and 45X commuter expresses, both of which will get second trips in the morning and evening.

Mr. Gee said the revenue effects of raising the Call-A-Ride fare and eliminating the transfer fare are unknown because TARTA officials expect those changes will induce more riders buying weekly or monthly passes. Pass prices will remain at $10 a week or $40 a month, and the transit authority will introduce a discounted $5 weekly pass for senior and disabled riders.

Eliminating transfers also will eliminate a hassle for drivers who now must verify that paper transfers they receive have been used in a timely and proper manner, Mr. Gee said.

Many transit authorities have eliminated transfers, he said without providing examples.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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