TARTA to pursue sales tax measure and inclusion of Lucas County on fall ballot

July 26, 2021
The transit system says the move will help it meet the growing mobility needs of the region’s residents.

For the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA), the fifth time is the charm. Following four failed attempts to bring a measure to voters, TARTA’s Board of Trustees voted July 22 to place a fall ballot proposal that would add Lucas County as a member, as well as change the way the system is funded by moving to a 0.5 percent sales tax and repealing local property taxes that currently help fund the system.

TARTA explains the ballot measure will help as it “strives financially to meet the growing mobility needs of residents and businesses with a modern public transit system operating across Lucas County.”

TARTA Board President Kelsie Hoagland called the vote to place the proposal on the ballot a historical landmark.

“The effort to reach this point has been no small feat. The tireless work of many, within TARTA and in our greater community, have guided this transformation. It’s clear that now is the time to invest in this critical element of our infrastructure. Finally, the time has come for the people of Lucas County to weigh in,” said Hoagland.

The resolution language needed to be approved by four of TARTA’s seven local government members in order to place the proposal on the fall ballot. Six of the seven government members voted in favor of the resolution, including Ottawa Hills, Rossford, Sylvania Township, Sylvania, Toledo and Waterville. The seventh, Maumee, approved its own version of the measure, which calls for every suburban community to have a seat on TARTA’s Board. However, TARTA may pursue its proposal because it gathered the required approvals from its other six members.

“I am energized by the confidence that our local communities have bestowed upon TARTA by agreeing to admit Lucas County as a member of TARTA and allow the voters to determine if they want a modern, stable and effective transit system,” said TARTA Board Vice President Mary Morrison. “This is the resiliency we need to support, redefine and address the growing transportation needs of our community.”

The impetus behind the ballot proposal is TARTA’s long-term financial health and its ability to provide reliable service to the region. A financial analysis found TARTA’s funding gap ranged from $83.4 million, assuming low property tax decline and the return of 90 percent pre-COVID-19 levels of ridership, to $96.8 million, assuming high property tax decline and the return of 60 percent pre-COVID-19 levels of ridership. Without the option to repeal property taxes and add a sales tax, TARTA was facing decisions surrounding reduced service, fleet changes, pursuing new revenue sources and even bankruptcy.

Earlier this year, the TARTA Board adopted a new strategic plan for the organization with four measurable success goals of financial sustainability, customer experience, community value and employee engagement. In addition, the board directed a comprehensive review and redesign of TARTA’s routes, vehicles, technology and services to offer residents, communities and businesses improved mobility options. The system redesign will take 12 months to complete and involve extensive public and stakeholder engagement.

“This is an incredibly exciting moment for TARTA. In so many ways, this is a pivotal turning point in the agency’s 50-year history. Last year, we worked hard at renewing relationships in the community and transforming our business model. As we continue to look to the future with new funding and expanding our services across Lucas County, we remain committed to elevating TARTA to the modern transit and sophisticated system this region needs and deserves,” said TARTA CEO Kimberly Dunham.

Additional information on TARTA’s future plans can be found at www.tarta.com/future.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.