Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon expressed support of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus service at Rossford First Baptist Church on Thursday.
Bus riders are “a silent part of our community” who need that service to thrive and TARTA is the most economical way to provide it, Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon said Thursday during a rally to urge voter support for the bus system at the Nov. 4 polls.
Rossford’s two biggest employers, Libbey-Owens-Ford and Industrial Power Systems, rely on the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority for workers’ commutes, as does Hollywood Casino Toledo just beyond the city line, Mr. MacKinnon said during the event at First Baptist Church on Bergin Street.
“People out there are struggling. They rely on safe, reliable public transportation for survival and quality of life,” he said. “They are a silent part of our community that I feel we have a responsibility to look out for and take care of.”
Mr. MacKinnon’s comments, and those of others at the rally, were in opposition to a petitioned referendum on the upcoming local ballot that, if approved, would pull Rossford out of TARTA, as has already occurred in neighboring Perrysburg and in Lucas County’s Spencer Township.
A few more than a dozen people, including several TARTA officials and an international representative of the Amalgamated Transit Union, attended the 10 a.m. rally. Mr. MacKinnon said several other Rossford residents who ride the bus would have been there if not for work obligations.
The Rev. Alexander Shears, First Baptist’s pastor, said even people who don’t use public transportation benefit from its availability.
“It’s not about how much you use it, it’s about having it when you need it,” Pastor Shears said, noting that some of his parishioners who have moved to Toledo use the bus weekly to attend services.
“I don’t use it very much, but we do need transit service here,” said Waymon Nickerson, a citizen who attended the rally.
After studying Rossford’s public transportation options, Rossford City Council decided last year not to place a TARTA opt-out question on the local ballot, but Citizens for Choice petitioned the referendum, which was delayed until this year’s general election by an administrative glitch.
Mayor MacKinnon reiterated Thursday that Rossford taxpayers contribute about $300,000 annually for service that would cost the city $500,000 were Rossford to operate its own buses.
“Most of us here today probably came by car,” said James Gee, the transit authority’s general manager. “But it’s a privilege to drive, and there are those who don’t have that privilege. They still need to get to work, they still need to get to the doctor, they still need to get to the grocery store. People should have the right to participate in the community, and society, as they see fit.”
Citizens for Choice, an ad hoc group, has taken no official position on the referendum. Its secretary said last year petition organizers were solely interested in giving residents a chance to vote on staying with or leaving the transit authority.
TARTA collects two levies totalling 2.5 mills on real property in its service area, which also includes Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Maumee, and Waterville.
Jim Richards, a former Rossford city councilman who now represents the city on TARTA’s board of trustees, said during the rally he and council colleagues once believed the transit authority cost too much.
“As we gained knowledge, we changed our opinion,” Mr. Richards said. “Knowledge will result in our retention of TARTA service.”
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