Ohio Public Transit Association President Highlights Urgent Need

May 23, 2016
Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) announced that May 16-23rd is National Infrastructure Week (NIW).

Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) announced that May 16-23rd is National Infrastructure Week (NIW). This week is intended to bring broader attention to the need to consistently invest and maintain the aging infrastructure, including one of the most valuable assets – our public transportation systems.

This year’s fourth annual National Infrastructure Week brought together business, labor and policy-making leadership to illustrate the deteriorating condition of our aging public transit infrastructure and State of Good Repair issues. In 2014/2015, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) conducted and published a Transit Needs study which found:

  • There are 27 counties in Ohio that do not have any public transit.
  • Public transit systems provide 115M trips per year to Ohioans.
  • Over 60% of trips taken are for work, 20% are for school and 20% are for recreation, shopping or medical trips.
  • Transit systems have a fleet of about 3200 vehicles combined and approximately 1200 of them are beyond their useful life and in need of replacement. 
  • Public Transit ridership is projected to increase to 225M trips a year by 2025.
  • There is currently a $185 million funding gap for public transit.
  • Ohio is the 14th highest in ridership of any state in the US; however is 38th in funding for public transit.
  • An additional $273 million in funding is needed to bring Ohio’s fleets to a State of Good Repair.
  • To expand and meet the current needs of Ohioan’s, an additional $192 million in funding is required. 

“Since 2000, the State of Ohio has reduced its funding for public transit from $44 million a year to just over $7 million in 2015.  Ohio’s transit systems spend $893 million a year with the state contributing only 3% of the total funding for public transit,” stated Kirt Conrad, executive director/CEO of SARTA & OPTA president, “Ohio transit systems provide 115M trips a year to seniors, students, employees, those with disabilities and many more.” 

In order to operate within budget, SARTA reduced its hours of operations/service, cut Sunday Service, increase fares, cut bus services and had a reduction in its workforce in 2009.  Meanwhile, SARTA’s ridership has increased by 30% since then (700,000 rides over 5 years) to set a ridership record of 2.8 million rides in 2014.  In spite of the increased ridership, SARTA has not reinstated Sunday Service or expand operational hours.  In 2015, SARTA completed a Trasit Development Plan (TDP) which highlighted that in order to meet the community’s needs, SARTA needs to increase frequency (30 min service vs. 60 min. service) on key routes, make connections between routes easier, expanded hours of service and to operate on Sunday’s.

SARTA is not alone, since 2006 Greater Cleveland RTA (GCRTA) has eliminated over 205 of its services and has nearly doubled some fares.  Additionally, GCRTA is in the process of reducing services (bus and rails) and raising fares again.  In order to meet the needs of Greater Cleveland’s riders, they need 273 new buses and to invest in the replacement of their rail system.  In 2009 METRO cut 12% of its services and increased fares and in 2014 the Richland County Transit increased single ride fares by 33% and monthly passes by 25%.  Both Metro and Richland have vehicles that require replacement and expansions in service to meet their community’s needs. 

“As president, I want to address the growing needs of transit across Ohio for seniors, disabled and employees who need access to reliable transportation. By 2025 the anticipated need for transit is expected to grow to 250M trips annually – over twice what transit authorities in Ohio are currently providing. In addition, half of Ohio’s buses are beyond their useful life and must be replaced. ODOT has identified a $185 million funding gap in Ohio to address this problem.  I will be working with our legislator to find funding solution for transits in Ohio. Together, I hope that we can continue to meet the needs of the citizens of Ohio as well as to continue to grow our economy together,” stated Conrad.

Stark Area Regional Transit Authority
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