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Published: Thursday, 1/22/2009

TARTA enjoys slight increase in riders; other bus services up

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Passengers at the Seagate Station downtown change buses on the TARTA system, which experienced an increase in riders last year. Passengers at the Seagate Station downtown change buses on the TARTA system, which experienced an increase in riders last year.
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TARTA ridership increased slightly during 2008, with a decline in student ridership more than offset by increased numbers of adult and senior-citizen passengers.

Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority buses carried 4,622,656 passengers last year, a 0.3 percent increase from 4,609,701 in 2007. Adult and senior citizen ridership was up 7.8 percent, to 2,747,520, while student ridership declined 2.7 percent, to 1,299,445.

The transit authority set ridership records, meanwhile, for its Call-A-Ride and Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service operations.

Six Call-A-Ride buses provide flexible-route service in Toledo s suburbs, while TARPS offers door-to-door service to people whose disabilities preclude their use of regular buses.

The Muddy Shuttles to Toledo Mud Hens games also had a record ridership of 28,350, although that number was included in the overall TARTA statistics, too.

While our ridership increases were due in part to widely fluctuating fuel costs, the ridership increases are indicative of the need for increased public transportation services in this area, James Gee, the transit authority s general manager, said in announcing the year-end results.

The ridership increases occurred, however, despite two rounds of service cuts the transit authority imposed during the summer to counter skyrocketing fuel costs.

The second round of cuts imposed in late August was followed Sept. 1 by elimination of 10-cent transfers.

The step was unpopular with some riders who said they couldn t afford to buy passes to avoid paying two or more $1 fares for trips requiring one or more bus connections.

The transit authority issued 589,515 transfers during 2007, while 433,399 were sold between January and August last year.

TARTA officials said eliminating transfers would reduce administrative costs and relieve drivers of the duty of verifying transfers proper use.

The number of riders using passes increased by 94,200, or 13.9 percent, to 770,859, suggesting some accepted TARTA s advice to buy $10 weekly or $40 monthly passes if the transfers elimination affected them.

The transit authority has no way of calculating how much pass sales were induced by transfers elimination or of knowing how many riders are paying full fare for bus connections, Mr. Gee said.

The transit authority awaits a consultant s recommendations for the future of TARTA service recommendations that could lead to wholesale changes in route map and service models.

Preliminary findings from the Comprehensive Operational Analysis will be presented for public comment sometime next month, Mr. Gee said.

Comments during that meeting will be considered during the preparation of final recommendations, due in late March, he said.

It s possible that the TARTA we know today will be changed greatly in coming years, Mr. Gee said.

TARPS, which the transit authority took in-house in late September after hiring contractors to run it for 19 years, posted an 11 percent ridership increase to a record 136,446 passengers last year.

The transit authority decided to manage the paratransit service directly in part because of recurring complaints about service reliability and driver attitudes.

TARPS rapid growth has strained the transit authority s budget, since the service costs significantly more per passenger to operate.

During a TARTA board of trustees meeting Jan. 8, several trustees said transit authority management should try to persuade those paratransit passengers who don t need door-to-door service to return to regular bus service.

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



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