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Published: Tuesday, 11/24/2009

TARTA will keep holiday, Sunday runs

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The interval between buses on routes that now run once an hour during off-peak times will be lengthened to 80 or 90 minutes. The interval between buses on routes that now run once an hour during off-peak times will be lengthened to 80 or 90 minutes.
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Expect to wait longer for the next bus if you miss yours after Dec. 27 - but there still will be buses to catch in metro Toledo on Sunday mornings and holidays.

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority yesterday announced its revised plan for a 12 percent service cut that General Manager James Gee said will save the agency $1.8 million a year - enough to offset a $900,000 decline forecast for its local levies next year plus compensate for rising costs and the threat of further levy losses in 2011.

In response to an outcry from riders, who said the cuts would keep them from getting to church or work or visiting relatives on holidays, the plan preserves limited service on six major holidays on which Mr. Gee had previously proposed to cancel all operations. The revision, approved last week by the TARTA Board of Trustees' routes and schedules committee, reinstates Sunday morning service, at the price of creating a 165-minute service gap on Sunday afternoons.

The revised plan also calls for lengthening to 80 or 90 minutes the time between buses on routes that now run once an hour during off-peak times. TARTA already planned to lengthen the time interval for weeknight and weekend "line-up" service to 80 minutes from 70 and to reduce half-hourly weekday routes to trips every 40 to 45 minutes outside of rush hours.

"These changes touch virtually all routes in one way or another," Mr. Gee said, adding that with the plan now firm, the new schedules will be posted on the transit authority's Web site and new timetables will be printed. The Web site is expected to be updated no later than Dec. 11.

No fare increase is planned, but "we're going to revisit it at the beginning of the year" after the final

2009 financial results are known, the general manager said.

Mr. Gee had said earlier this month that, based on comments received during two public meetings Oct. 22, riders clearly preferred having to wait longer between buses over losing all service on the six holidays: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

But instead of running from dawn until late evening, holiday service will be cut to one shift, from 7:15 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. for all operations, including the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service and Call-A-Ride routes. On Sundays, buses will run only from 7:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 4:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

"That middle of the day on Sunday has been a low point in ridership," Mr. Gee said.

Unchanged is the transit authority's plan to eliminate four commuter express routes that were popular when introduced last year but whose ridership slumped after gasoline prices retreated from their mid-2008 record highs.

The park-and-ride buses to be dropped run from lots at Southland Shopping Center in South Toledo and St. Joseph Church in Sylvania to the Owens-Illinois campus in Perrysburg and from St. Joseph's and River Place in Perrysburg to Arrowhead Park in Maumee.

Weekend service will be dropped on two lightly used routes: the 28/30 combination in central Toledo and the 34 route in South Toledo.

TARTA's base fare of $1 is among the lowest in Ohio. Seniors and disabled people pay half fare, and children under 6 ride for free. The TARPS fare is $2. Any change in those fares would require hearings and approval by the TARTA board before taking effect.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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