Posts Tagged ‘Ohio public transit’

Ohio House Committee Boosts Public Transit Funding

March 2, 2021

Gov. Mike DeWine’s efforts to slash funding of public transit failed to survive a markup session  by a House committee.

The House Finance Committee last week voted to provide $97 million annually for public transportation, a number far above the $7.3 million recommended by DeWine.

The funding approved by the committee includes $23.2 million in federal “flex” funding.

The previous state budget allocated $63 million for public transit funding.

The transportation budget is still subject to further work by the committee and still must be approved by the full House before it moves on to the Senate.

House Speaker Bob Cupp said the House plans to vote on the transportation budget this week.

State law requires the legislature to approve a transportation budget by March 31.

DeWine suffered two other defeats from the House committee when it voted to remove a proposed $10 increase in the state’s annual vehicle registration fee and removed a provision increasing penalties for drivers who use cell phones while driving.

The governor sought the increase in vehicle fees to raise an additional $127 million a year for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Committee members who opposed the increase said now is the wrong time to impose new costs on drivers.

DeWine has been pushing since February 2020 a proposal he called “Hands Free Ohio” to crack down on cell phone use while driving.

His original proposal failed to advance in the legislature in the last session so it was introduced as part of the transportation budget this year.

State Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton), the chairman of the finance committee, cited precedent in removing the distracted driving provision.

He said legislators “generally try not to put anything dealing with criminal law” into state budget bills.

Cupp said the distracted driving measure will be introduced as a standalone bill later in the session.

DeWine Proposes Cutting State Transit Funding

February 13, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed slashing state funding for public transit in the 2022 and 2023 state fiscal years.

DeWine recommended $7.3 million for public transit funding whereas the current budget is $70 million over a two-year period.

Actual state funding, though, is $63 million due to COVID-19 pandemic budget cuts in the wake of falling state revenues.

Federal funding of Ohio public transit agencies, which is passed through the state for budgeting purposes, would be about $50 million.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks defended the transit funding cut before a state legislative committee by saying DeWine’s proposal reflects what the state has historically spent on transit funding.

State transit funding increased in 2019 as part of a deal made between House Democrats and the legislature’s majority Republicans.

Marchbanks sought to further defend the lower numbers for transit by saying they reflect “budget realities” as the state considers its spending needs.

 “Your point is well made that the need is there,” Marchbanks said in response to a question from one lawmaker.

“But we have in this budget, because of our COVID-based limitations, returned to our historical funding patterns.”

Ohio transit officials countered that Ohio’s spending on public transportation has been among the lowest per capital of any state for several years.

They said that funding cuts would exacerbate the challenges they are already facing in dealing with reduced ridership and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Public transit is a lifeline for many people and it is worthy of investment, particularly during this pandemic when we’ve discovered the inequality of how COVID is affecting our communities of color,” said Claudia Amrhein, general manager of the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority and president of the Ohio Public Transit Association.

She said public transportation is the only option for many elderly and the poor to get to work and medical appointments.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority deputy general manager Mike Schipper noted that his agency received $25 million in funding from the current state budget.

Cleveland RTA used that money to buy 16 new buses and to set aside $5 million for rail car replacement.

“Obviously we wouldn’t be funding those things at the reduced amount,” he said.

Machbanks said ODOT’s overall funding is being squeezed due to falling revenue from the state gas tax.

Gas tax receipts have fallen during the pandemic as more people work from home and do less driving.

ODOT officials are planning to meet with transit agencies next week to discuss possible increases in the state’s share of federal “flex” funding for public transit.

“Transit is going to have to be reimagined post-pandemic and many, many transit agencies are trying to figure out what routing patterns they have to put in place, and what funding models work as they provide that critical mobility for people,” Marchbanks said.

Some state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already signaled that they plan to fight the proposed funding cuts during the legislative proceedings on the next state budget.

Akron Metro Public Views on Strategic Plan

September 28, 2020

Akron Metro RTA will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to get public views on the transit agency’s 10-year strategic plan.

The meeting can be viewed on Zoom with registration at https://www.akronmetro.org/strategic-plan.aspx.

A recording of the meeting will later be posted on the Akron Metro website.

A summary of the public comments will be presented on Oct. 27 to the Metro board of trustees during its next meeting.

In an unrelated development, Akron Metro has launched a partnership with the Moovit app to allow riders to buy a digital bus pass.

The Moovit app can be downloaded for free on Apple and Android devices.

Riders must have a smart phone to use the app and will show their pass on their device to a bus driver or have it scanned.

The Moovit app incorporates EZfare ticketing while also showing bus lines and trip times.

After selecting a trip using the app riders will see the fare and be able to purchase an e-ticket. Moovit will display the digital ticket and a unique QR code.

Among the transit agencies in Northeast Ohio using app are PARTA in Portage County, MCPT in Medina County, Laketran in Lake County and SARTA in Stark County.

Passengers can use the services to transfer between lines when possible.

Cincinnati Votes OK Tax Hike to Benefit Transit

May 16, 2020

Voters in Cincinnati recently approved a tax increase that will benefit Cincinnati Metro, the first such tax increase for public transit in the Queen City since 1972.

Hamilton county voters approved a 0.8 percent sale tax increase 67,698 to 66,718.

Voters had turned down levies to raise sales taxes to improve city bus service in 1971, 1979, 1980 and 2002.

About $100 million of the tax hike will be devoted to the bus system and $30 million a year applied to road and bridge projects.

Cincinnati Metro has said it will create new bus routes, provide longer and more frequent service on existing routes, add more crosstown service, and increase weekend service.

In the long term Metro wants to create Bus Rapid Transit routes in which at least a portion of a road is decided to use by buses.

The levy passage will result in Cincinnati’s 0.3 percent earnings tax that currently supports the bus system being removed so the increased sales tax could end up being a tax cut for some.

Metro board chair Kreg Keesee said the agency, which is part of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, won’t start collecting increased revenue until January.

Keesee said it will take a couple of years to implement all of the proposed changes.

Public transportation ridership in Cincinnati has fallen 75 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic with much of that loss attributed to the closing of schools.

ODOT Sets Transit Funding Levels in FY2020

August 30, 2019

Details have been announced by the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding how the agency plans to distribute $70 million in general revenue funds being made available by the Urban Transit Program in the state’s 2020 fiscal year.

The funding plan covers 27 of Ohio’s public transit agencies that fall under the urban transit system category.

The information announced this week is the first outline of how ODOT plans to distribute funding to the state’s public transit systems.

ODOT is allowing funding for projects that support public transportation in Ohio except for those that are project administration and force account work.

General revenue funding may be used to provide 100 percent of the total project cost or 100 percent of the non-federal share to match a federal operating assistance grant.

The ODOT plan includes formula allocations for funding for the 27 Urban Transit Programs, which is expected to be $16.6 million .

Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority will receive the greatest share at $3,670,747.

Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority will receive $1,007,281, Stark Area Regional Transit will receive $591,770, Medina Public County Transit will receive $133,352, Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority will receive $234,773, Lorain County Transit will receive $411,047, Laketran will receive $405,946, Western Reserve Transit Authority (Youngstown) will receive $478,648, and Trumbull County Transit will receive $81,254.

Cleveland RTA Ridership Fell by 4M in 2017

April 20, 2018

Total ridership of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses and trains reached a record low 39.6 million last year, a decline of more than 4 million riders from 2016 when it carried 43.8 million.

The 9.5 percent drop in ridership was the largest single-year falloff since 2010.

RTA officials said the falling ridership was a result in part of a fare increase and route cuts imposed last August.

It was the second consecutive year that RTA saw record low ridership and the third straight year of ridership declines.

RTA’s record ridership was 125.9 million in 1979. In 2016, some 43.8 million riders took RTA trains and buses.

Fear of further falling ridership was behind an RTA decision earlier this year to delay a planned fare increase for late summer.

Officials said that transit ridership is affected by various factors, including the service offered, the concentration of jobs downtown at the core of the system, increasing numbers of people working at home, traffic delays, gasoline prices, parking rates, employment and public funding.

Last month RTA cut service frequencies on 15 bus and rail routes.

Stephen Bitto, executive director of marketing and communications for RTA, said the agency is seeking to boost ridership by working with employers and college students.

About 50,000 college students receive fare cards as part of their fees at Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, Cuyhoaga Community College and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Cleveland RTA is Ohio’s largest transit agency, carrying more than double the number of riders than the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus area. COTA ridership was 18.7 million last year.

Cleveland RTA Won Raise Fares, Cut Service in 2018; May Eye Tax Increase to Boost Revenue

March 30, 2018

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has decided against increasing bus and rail fares this year and instead may seek a tax increase to generate additional revenue.

The transit agency had proposed earlier this year increasing fares by 25 cents in August to compensate for declining revenue, but that was met with a public outcry.

RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese also said RTA will not reduce its level of service further for the remainder of the year.

Earlier this month, RTA reduced frequency of service on 15 bus and train routes.

RTA also has launched a study of its fares, services and funding with at least one board of directors member already favoring seeking a tax increase.

“There’s no other entity in the county that has operated for 40 years on the same levy,” said board member Trevor Elkins, who also serves as the mayor of Newburgh Heights. “We have to step up and lead on this issue.”

Calabrese did not favor or disfavor a tax increase effort, but said RTA needs to increase its revenue streams.

“We need you to help us to convince others to fund public transit at a level to provide great service to our customers,” he said to the audience attending an RTA board meeting this week.

RTA benefits from a 1 percent sales tax in Cuyahoga County, but revenue from that tax has been falling.

Further aggravating the revenue picture was a deal last year between the state and Medicaid that eliminated a local sales tax on Medicaid payments for managed care, which had been worth about $20.2 million per year to RTA.

State funding of public transit has fallen from about $45 million in 2001 to less than $7 million.

RTA board member Georgine Welo, the mayor of South Euclid, said the public needs to question state officials and candidates about their support for public transit.

“You can’t trust Columbus. We have to bring back to Ohio that they’re there for us,” she said.

Calabrese described federal aid as a mixed picture.

The recently adopted federal budget for 2018 increased some categories of aid but lowered others. The federal government continues to fund capital improvements, but not operations.

RTA last increased fares in 2016 when they rose by 25 cents. That led to ridership falling by 6 percent, which was double the projected loss.

In the meantime, the RTA board approved a revised 2018 budget of $286.3 million, a decrease from the proposed $300.1 million. The budget defers $5 million in capital improvements in the hopes of more future funding.

The board also announced that its president. George F. Dixon III, has resigned at its request.

The board is investigating reports that Dixon has skipped paying healthcare premiums for insurance provided by RTA for several years. An internal investigation is being undertaken board members said.

Dixon joined the RTA board in 1992 and was appointed president in 1994.

RTA said Dixon signed up for health care through a program offered to all RTA board members, but that no other current board members are enrolled in the healthcare plan. RTA is self-insured.

NOACA OKs $15.8B Transportation Plan for Greater Cleveland

July 22, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has approved a $15.8 billion, 20-year transportation plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that has been named AIM Forward 2040.

More than 90 percent of the funds identified in the plan will be used to maintain existing infrastructure and support new transit and livability projects.

“We heard over and over again that adding more lanes and widening roads was not necessarily a priority,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “What we did hear was a strong desire for more options for getting around and fixing what we already have.

NOACA plans to invest $45 million to renew rail infrastructure of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line from Tower City to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The line sees nearly 30,000 weekday riders and in recent years deteriorated tracks and poor drainage have slowed trains.

Also on the docket is spending nearly $68 million for replacing 260 transit buses in Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

This does not yet include the replacement of RTA’s rail fleet, some of which dates back to the middle 1970s. RTA wants to replace its two models of light and heavy rail cars with a single type of equipment during the next four-year cycle of urban formula grants.

The price of replacing the rail car fleet with nearly 70 light-rail cars may be as much as $300 million.

Also in the works is planning of transit-oriented development around RTA rail stations. This will include a pilot program focused at the West Boulevard/Cudell station on the Red Line and the East 116th Street station on the Blue and Green Lines.

Additional transit-supportive land-use planning is occurring near RTA’s two East 79th Street rail stations that are in need of major rehabilitation.

Some development has been built, is under construction or is planned within walking distance of dozens of rail and bus rapid transit stations.

In the longer term future, NOACA wants to expand the number of rail stations from 50 to 162, and expand rail service to improve job access in places such as Euclid, Lorain, Westlake, Lakewood, Solon, Strongsville and Medina, as well as promote walkable communities around rail stations.

NOACA officials say that under existing flexible transportation funding provisions, the financial resources already exist to expand the existing transit system.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded to NOACA $200,000 to begin planning a multi-county transit system as an overlay to connect and enhance existing county-based transit networks to improve access to job hubs.

Only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute one-way transit ride in Greater Cleveland.

AAO Wants Senate Vote on Veto Override

July 18, 2017

All Aboard Ohio is urging its members to prod the Ohio Senate into scheduling a vote on overriding a veto by Gov. John Kasich of legislation that would provide funding for public transit agencies.

The House voted 87-10 to override the line-item veto in the budget bill of a provision in the budget known as the Dolan amendment that would provide funding to transit agencies that will be lost when a sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations ends.

The Dolan amendment would authorize a franchise fee be paid to transit agencies through 2024.

At this point, Senate President Larry Obhoff has yet to schedule a vote on a veto override and AAO members are being asked to contact Obhoff, who represents a district in Medina County, and ask that a vote be scheduled.

The tax on services provided by Medicaid managed care organizations was struck down by a court, which AAO said could result in a yearly $40 million loss to transit agencies starting in 2019.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority would lose $20 million of that. RTA has said that loss of that funding would result in a 10 percent service cut and layoffs.

FTA Urges States to Enact Safety Programs

June 21, 2017

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are among 30 states that have been reminded by the Federal Transit Administration that they must establish a state safety oversight program by April 15, 2019.

The rule was promulgated in 2016 and sets a three-year time frame for states to obtain certification for their SSO programs.

Failure to do so will mean the  FTA will not obligate funds to transportation agencies in that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact necessary legislation required to meet certification requirements.

Nine states have yet to enact legislation prior to FTA certification. FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said that by law the 2019 deadline cannot be waived.

“The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail-transit riders and workers,” he said in a statement.