Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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TARTA study to include look at how agency is funded

When a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority consultant studies the local transit system during the coming fall and winter, it won t just look at where the buses go now and how that should be changed in the future.

Parsons Brinckerhoff s $140,000 Comprehensive Operational Analysis also will consider whether the property-tax system that provides TARTA s local subsidy a funding source that has become increasingly controversial of late in Toledo s suburbs should be changed.

TARTA s funding structure is fairly unusual in Ohio, said Tim Rosenberger, a senior transportation planner at Parsons Brinckerhoff s Cleveland office who will direct the study.

Except for the Youngstown transit agency, other Ohio systems rely on countywide sales taxes, he noted.

Those other systems, Mr. Rosenberger conceded, also don t have routes that cross county lines like Toledo s and Youngstown s do, which would complicate switching from a property tax to a sales tax.

Rossford and Perrysburg, two of TARTA s nine member communities, are in Wood County, and trying to collect a countywide sales tax just for that might not sail there, he said.

Other funding sources that have been tapped elsewhere have included state funding and taxes on visitors, like a hotel-motel tax, Mr. Rosenberger said.

It s premature to say what changes in TARTA s funding system the study, to be completed in March, might recommend, he said.

But he acknowledged that funding any service-growth recommendations will be a challenge.

Funding is a hard policy question, Mr. Rosenberger said. It is a public policy issue that will need to be dealt with.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said going to a countywide tax basis will be worth discussing, though she d want more details before advocating it.

It s definitely worth exploring. It could be more equitable because it would reduce property taxes, she said. And if people want the service, we need to find a way to pay for it.

TARTA receives about $17.7 million from its property levies, $10.6 million of which comes from the city of Toledo.

But the vast majority of the transit authority s routes also are in the city, while service in the suburbs is lightly used and increasingly built on the Call-A-Ride model introduced in Perrysburg in early 2002 and since extended to other suburban communities.

Suburban dissatisfaction with TARTA service was manifest in levy voting in November, when replacement of one of the transit authority s two levies passed by only 53 percent overall, with a strong favorable vote from Toledo voters overriding negative majorities in six of eight suburban members: Rossford, Perrysburg, Waterville, Maumee, and Spencer and Sylvania townships. Majorities of Ottawa Hills and Sylvania voters also favored the levy.

TARTA s other levy is up for replacement or renewal in 2010 if the property-tax system is retained.

Ridership has risen in recent years because of record-shattering gasoline prices, but TARTA s own increasing fuel costs have overwhelmed the increased fare- box revenue.

On Aug. 24, the transit authority cut service by 7 percent to offset part of the rising cost, and this week it eliminated the discount Call-A-Ride fare of 60 cents and the 10-cent transfer, making $1 the standard fare to board any TARTA bus.

A Regional Transit Study prepared four years ago for the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments for which Parsons Brinckerhoff was one of two consultants recommended extending service to Northwood, Oregon, Perrysburg Township, Holland, and Springfield Township, with later links to Bowling Green and Monroe.

It urged creation of more suburb-to-suburb routes, expansion of night and weekend service, and reorganizing the transit system to allow for countywide or even multicounty funding.

Mr. Gee said TARTA s pending study is its own review of its own operation, with an eye toward adapting to suburban sprawl, high fuel prices, and an aging population that is likely to demand more and more public transportation choices.

Contact David Patch at:dpatch@theblade.comor 419-724-6094.

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