Pounds: Wheels on the busWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | email@example.com
When Tarzan swings through the jungle, he doesn’t let go of a vine until the next one is securely in hand. That’s the image that comes to mind as Perrysburg deals with its post-TARTA future.
Toledo Free Press took some heat a few weeks ago with an election summary comment that called Perrysburg’s opting out of TARTA service “a short-sighted decision that will have major ramifications for the people who depend on the bus service for transportation. Time will tell if the money the individuals save is worth the sacrifice to the community as a whole.”
A number of Perrysburg readers wrote to say we were the ones being short-sighted, and one wrote that “several years of research have gone into the efficiency and efficacy of the service received from TARTA and the options available to continue to provide public transportation to citizens who need it. Many meetings between the city and the provider have taken place, with unrealized promises of more timely and value-added service. For all these years of membership, the city has paid an inordinately high premium to TARTA in view of the limited ridership of its citizens.”
Toledo Free Press was invited to attend the March 21 public meeting about Perrysburg’s efforts to replace TARTA. While the respected city may have diligently researched its decision to ask voters whether to leave TARTA, it does not seem to have an option ready for people who depend on public transportation.
“I’m a property owner; I’ve been paying taxes for 40 years and I absolutely do not want to pay taxes for you to go to the Mud Hens, for you to go to the symphony and for you to go somewhere else,” said Denny Barrett, a Perrysburg resident who spoke during the meeting. “Get yourself there — that’s not something the taxpayers should be paying for.”
It is fair to wonder whether Barrett has considered that the system works both ways; the same buses that take people to Toledo also bring people to Levis Commons and other shopping destinations in Perrysburg.
Barrett and other Perrysburg residents may be subject to a property tax levy to replace TARTA (although the legality of that may be challenged), which may save residents money but is going to be a source of concern until those who use the service know more. There were several questions raised at the meeting about service quality, cost and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It seems odd that Perrysburg would spend so much time and energy preparing to let go of the vine that is TARTA without having a clear plan for a smooth transition to the next vine. It is one thing to negotiate with a private company that isn’t sure if it will face competition with a service like TARTA, but with that competition factor removed, Perrysburg may not find itself in such a favorable bargaining decision.
We were prepared to apologize for mischaracterizing Perrysburg’s decision to leave TARTA as “short-sighted,” but nothing at the March 21 meeting convinced anyone that the next transportation vine is in sight, much less in hand.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.