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Published: Friday, 7/25/2008

Riders tell TARTA to hit brakes on cuts in service

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mary Rose Donahue of Toledo says during a hearing at TARTA headquarters that proposed service cuts will force her to ride three TARTA buses to get her to where she needs to go. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> <font color=red> <b>READ</font color=red></b>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080725/ART16/807250302" target="_blank "><b>Editor rides to rescue of planet on TARTA</b></a> 
Mary Rose Donahue of Toledo says during a hearing at TARTA headquarters that proposed service cuts will force her to ride three TARTA buses to get her to where she needs to go. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> <font color=red> <b>READ</font color=red></b>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080725/ART16/807250302" target="_blank "><b>Editor rides to rescue of planet on TARTA</b></a>
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For years, the No. 3 bus has been Dolores Hughes' primary means of transportation.

Ms. Hughes, 58, and many other residents of the Westmoor Retirement Apartments on North Byrne Road rely on the North/South crosstown bus, which runs about every 80 minutes and connects Point Place with Westfield Franklin Park, the University of Toledo, the Southwyck area, and Perrysburg.

"That No. 3 is our livelihood," Ms. Hughes said. "You take that bus away, you're taking away my way to get to the doctor or the dentist."

But the No. 3 has been proposed for reduction in range and frequency under a cost-savings plan being reviewed by the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.

TARTA officials have proposed reductions affecting 20 routes to cope with mounting fuel prices. Officials report the price of diesel has jumped 67 percent since last year.

Route reductions are expected to save $1 million annually, TARTA General Manager Jim Gee said.

Ms. Hughes and other TARTA riders sounded off yesterday about the proposal at two public hearings at TARTA's offices, 1127 West Central Ave.

Some of those who attended, many of whom disabled or elderly, said the reductions would impact their quality of life in a major way.

"I don't know how I'm going to get to the senior center," said Jacqueline Nash, 73, another Westmoor resident. "I can't get to UT [Medical Center] to get hospital treatment. Effectively, I cannot get groceries in the winter."

TARTA officials said the cutbacks have focused on low ridership and duplicate routes.

The transit authority is planning to enhance its Call-A-Ride service, which allows drivers to veer off-course to pick up riders on a by-order basis.

Meanwhile, some alternative routes will be expanded to accommodate additional riders.

"We're trying to find those areas to minimize impact," said William Kelly, TARTA's planning director. Transit officials said the public input will be used to fine-tune the reduction package.

Following the public hearings, the transit authority adjusted changes to the No. 3 route so that it will run at midday. Originally, all runs except those in the morning and evening were eliminated. But the reduced coverage area will remain in place, officials said.

South Toledo resident William Bockert uses the No. 3 to get to Maumee. Even the altered proposal will force him to travel to downtown Toledo to transfer to another bus or use Call-A-Ride.

"You're talking about having to wait an hour, two hours, three hours," he said.

In response to public feedback, the transit authority has expanded service from Centennial Terrace in Sylvania.

But reductions cannot be entirely avoided, Mr. Kelly said.

"We can't absorb - no business or public agency can absorb - this [fuel cost] increase," he said.

A final decision on the reductions will be made by the end of next week, Mr. Gee said. Changes will take effect on Aug. 24.

Another public meeting will be held at noon Wednesday about a second proposal to impose fare changes.

Under that proposal, transfers will be eliminated and the fare for Call-A-Ride will be raised from 60 cents to $1. The $1 adult ticket price for regular service would be maintained.

The transit authority also would add a weekly pass for senior citizens and the disabled.

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

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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