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Published: Friday, 8/8/2008

TARTA's board ends 10-cent bus transfers

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TARTA passengers whose trips require bus connections no longer will be able to do so with 10-cent transfers under a new fare structure the agency's board of trustees approved yesterday.

The plan also will increase the fare for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's suburban Call-A-Ride routes from 60 cents to $1, and create weekly and monthly passes for seniors and the disabled.

The changes take effect Sept. 1. The $1 standard fare for adult riders will not change, nor will the $2 fare for the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service, which provides direct service for riders whose disabilities prevent them from using regular buses.

The trustees voted 8-3 to accept the changes.

About eight people in the audience were not allowed to comment before the vote. TARTA conducted a lightly attended hearing on the proposal last week. A motion to table action pending receipt of further public comment was defeated by a majority of the board.

Trustees Kevin Rantanen, Roz Marovitz, and Larry Chasteen voted against the fare changes, with Ms. Marovitz saying the elimination of transfers will be a hardship for many cash-strapped riders.

"I don't think they would have objected if your rate went up to $1.50. Now they have to pay $2, maybe more," she said, alluding to the new price of any trip involving a change of buses.

Mr. Rantanen said he objected to voting without hearing audience comments.

Board president James Bohn said the public had a chance to respond during the July 30 public hearing, which none of the transit trustees attended.

Audience member Shirley Smith, who did attend the hearing, said the fare changes discriminate against the poor.

"It is not right," she said. "You are robbing the poor for the rich."

But some others in the audience were indifferent about, or even pleased with, the proposal.

Mary Destatte, 61, a former TARTA trustee from Point Place, said the $5 weekly pass rate for seniors and disabled people will be an improvement. The two groups currently may only buy 10-ride tickets for that price, whereas unlimited trips now will be allowed.

"We can get the $5 pass and go out as much as we want," Ms. Destatte said.

Weekly passes will be sold for $10 to the general public. Monthly passes will be $40.

James Gee, TARTA's general manager, said most riders do not use the 10-cent transfers, and many of those who do are expected to buy the weekly or monthly passes under the new fare structure.

The transit authority expects the Call-A-Ride fare increase to boost revenue by about $40,000. The financial benefit from eliminating transfers hasn't been calculated, Mr. Gee said, because TARTA is unsure how many riders will switch to using passes.

Those who don't will find themselves paying the $1 fare each time they board a bus, regardless of whether they're making a connection.

TARTA has suffered under mounting diesel fuel prices and reduced state support, Mr. Gee said. Diesel fuel cost the transit authority an additional $900,000 this year over last year, he said.

"We have seen a huge cutback in the amount of money from the state of Ohio," he said. "Transit authorities across the state are struggling, and we are struggling."

The transit authority will also trim about $1 million from its budget with service cuts affecting 23 routes that take effect Aug. 24. The trustees' approval was not needed for the route changes, but Mr. Gee said adjustments were made to the original plan based on comments during two hearings July 24.

Jacqueline Nash, 73, a resident of the Westmoor Retirement Apartments on North Byrne Road, said the adjustments solved problems that the original route proposals would have caused for her trips to her doctor and the grocery store.

"Both of those are covered, so I'm all set," she said.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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