Columbus removes red tape blocking TARTA expansion

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 7:35 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The transportation budget signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last month could help Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) expand service throughout all of Lucas County.

TARTA has been trying to do this for years, but has been unable to get through all the red tape and get on the ballot.

“I would say that public transit intersects with everything that’s important in a community, whether it’s economic development, workforce development, environmental sustainability, quality of life. We want people to stay here, have a great life, and public transit places a key role,” says TARTA CEO Kimberly Dunham.

But there are large pockets of Lucas County where TARTA doesn’t go because the county is not a TARTA member.

Lucas County has tried for membership four times, but it requires unaninous support from all current member communities to even get on the ballot, and every time has fallen short.

But with the recent change in the state transportation budget, only a simple majority is required for the next two years. So if four communities approve, “the TARTA sales tax levy will be on the November 2021 ballot, and we can let the people decide if they wish to invest in public transit,” says Dunham.

This would repeal the current levies in favor of a county-wide half percent sales tax increase that would be used to expand TARTA service through the entire county.

Many people with disabilities cannot drive, so expanding TARTA service is something the Ability Center of Greater Toledo has advocated for years.

“When we have a county that is not covered by public transit, it really limits people’s access to work, to shopping, to education, to medical care,” says Katie Hunt Thomas, director of advocacy and disability rights attorney for The Ability Center.

TARTA’s most recent bid for expansion was in June 2020, when six member communities approved, while Maumee City Council voted no. None of the dissenting members were available for interview, but one, Tracey Elmore, stated that many of her concerns have been addressed by TARTA since last year’s vote. She would now be comfortable sending the matter to voters.

”We seriously as a community have a once in a lifetime opportunity to save a transit system,” says Dunham.

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