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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

TARTA misses bus on timetables

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Natasha Mitcham walks her son Keshawn Jones to the bus stop shelter at Huron and Jackson streets. Ms. Mitcham and her son depend on the bus system to reach her job at a day-care center. Twenty of the TARTA bus routes were changed, but printed timetables reflecting the new times have yet to be printed. Natasha Mitcham walks her son Keshawn Jones to the bus stop shelter at Huron and Jackson streets. Ms. Mitcham and her son depend on the bus system to reach her job at a day-care center. Twenty of the TARTA bus routes were changed, but printed timetables reflecting the new times have yet to be printed.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

More than a week after TARTA revised many of its routes to cut costs, paper timetables are unavailable for much of its system - a problem the agency's top executive said will be cured next week.

James Gee, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's general manager, told the agency's board of trustees that he held off publishing the new timetables because there were numerous last-minute revisions to accommodate rider requests.

"We were, perhaps, accommodating to a fault in accepting these requests," Mr. Gee said after Trustee Francis Frey asked what could be done differently in the future to ensure timetables are published promptly.

Mr. Gee added that with one-person scheduling and planning departments, the transit authority probably should have contracted out some of the work.

TARTA printed makeshift timetables in-house for many routes and sent them to Park Station in downtown Toledo for distribution, the transit manager said, and standard fold-up timetables have now been sent out for printing and should be available next week.

"It was nice that you were able to accommodate people and shift things around," Trustee Steven Pecsenye responded, but riders "really need those schedules in advance. That needs to be a higher priority than last-minute changes."

Transit activist Shirley Smith echoed Mr. Pecsenye's remarks, describing the timetable situation as "two left feet" for the transit authority.

Until the timetables are printed, Mr. Gee said, schedule information is available at the TARTA Web site, www.tarta.com, or by calling its customer service number, 419-243-RIDE.

Twenty routes were affected by service cuts the transit authority implemented Aug. 24 to offset the skyrocketing price of diesel fuel, which has more than outrun the modest revenue increase from rising ridership. The service cuts are expected to save the agency about $1 million annually.

Effective Monday, TARTA also raised its Call-A-Ride fare from 60 cents to the standard $1 fare charged on regular-service buses and eliminated 10-cent transfers.

The Call-A-Ride fare hike is expected to produce a $40,000 revenue increase, while Mr. Gee said it is too soon to tell the extent to which the transfers' elimination will induce riders to buy weekly or monthly passes.

A broader change in TARTA's route structure could occur next year.

The transit authority today will announce a Comprehensive Operational Analysis of its system that could result in a shift away from the bus network's current focus on downtown Toledo.

Parsons Brinckerhoff, a national consultant, will review the transit system for six months from October through March, with hearings likely to be held during October, Mr. Gee said.

The study will consider "numerous options, including a multiple hub and neighborhood feeder system," according to a TARTA statement.

Minor changes in response to the consultant's recommendations could be implemented in the spring, while any major changes to the TARTA system likely would wait until summer, he said.

The firm is to be paid up to $1.4 million for its work, with funds coming from a federal transit planning grant.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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