TARTA cannot remake itself if the public is not given a chance to support it.
Lucas County residents deserve a good quality public transportation system. And they deserve the right to vote on whether to fund and expand it.
For a second straight year, Sylvania Township Trustees have sunk plans to put a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority levy on the fall ballot by rejecting the transit agency’s proposal.
Then, as now, TARTA proposes establishing a countywide 0.4 percent sales tax to replace the property taxes now collected in the TARTA member communities — Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Maumee, Waterville, and Rossford.
The new tax would spread the burden of supporting public transportation across Lucas County, and likewise expand TARTA countywide.
But the 2-1 “no” vote in Sylvania Township Tuesday night is enough to kill the plan, meaning it will not be on the November ballot and TARTA is expected to cut service instead.
“Why don’t you let the people say yes or no?” Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon asked.
That’s what Rossford residents demanded of their city in 2014. When Rossford City Council declined to take the question of whether to remain with or leave TARTA to voters, residents put the issue on the ballot themselves.
It passed overwhelmingly, which pleased Mr. MacKinnon.
Top companies, like those northwest Ohio hopes to lure, look to build and expand in metropolitan areas with top talent. And top talent is looking for places to live with amenities — green space, good schools, and good roads and public transportation.
“First, regional transportation needs to exist. Second, it should be strong. And third, it has to be dynamic and forward-thinking,” Mr. MacKinnon has said.
Forward-thinking regional transportation needs to reach the entire region. It needs to be available — and attractive enough — to take suburban commuters into town for work. It needs to be available to take city dwellers to the suburbs to shop or see their doctors.
Asking taxpayers to embrace a new funding mechanism and expansion of the same old TARTA never made sense.
In the last year, however, the transit agency has created a new strategic plan, one that calls for a revamped route map, a ride sharing service, and even a fleet of autonomous vehicles. TARTA has created a new partnership with the University of Toledo and is redesigning its downtown loop around a new hub.
TARTA is no longer just asking for a new funding scheme for the same old system. It has a major role to play in the Toledo region’s revitalization. And to do that, it must reach the entire region, not hit the brakes at the city’s borders.
Sylvania Township Trustee John Jennewine said the residents he’s spoken to oppose the TARTA plan and he fears they could be outvoted by the county’s other citizens even if everyone in Sylvania Township voted “no” on a levy.
But, if the levy is such an awful deal, Mr. Jennewine should have some confidence in the voters’ ability to see that, in and outside of Sylvania Township.
The trustees should reconsider the proposal and take a second vote. The people should decide the future of TARTA.
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