Saturday, August 12, 2000

Metro buses stay put for now

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HARRISON — The city will be given a 30-day extension to see whether there's a way to work out funding to continue Metro bus service.

        Bus service originating at two park-and-rides in Harrison and ending in downtown Cincinnati will continue through September because of the extension. The service was due to end Aug. 31.

        Since 1998, Metro had operated four new express routes to suburban communities in Harrison, West Chester, Eastgate and Fairfield to ease traffic congestion downtown as work progressed on Fort Washington Way.

        “We did it in order to reduce the number of car trips coming into downtown Cincinnati,” said Sallie Hilvers, a spokeswoman for Metro.

        Using a $3.1 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, Metro was able to offer the service for a $1.50 one-way fare and at no cost to the governments in those communities.

        But with work ending on Fort Washington Way, the grant expires, and those communities were given the option of continuing the service at a cost. West Chester, Fairfield and Eastgate will continue the service.

        But Harrison balked, primarily because just 29 percent of the riders who use the bus service actually live in the city. About 46 percent of the riders — who number about 200 each weekday — live in nearby Indiana; 14 percent live in Harrison Township and 11 percent live elsewhere in Ohio, such as Whitewater Township.

        Yet, for Harrison to continue the same level of service, it would need to provide a subsidy of $86,000 a year — the difference between the fares the riders pay and what had been subsidized.

        “I don't totally agree that we should have to subsidize this,” Mayor Dan Gieringer said. “I'm very glad the extension is there. But they're asking to spend $86,000 for 49 or 50 riders.”

        Metro and Harrison have been talking with other municipalities, townships and Indiana about helping to pay for the service, but no agreement has been reached.

        Metro has called for another meeting on Tuesdayto talk about the service, Mr. Gieringer said. If no one agrees to pay for it, the service will end.

        Ms. Hilvers said Metro has come up with other options for service that would involve fewer bus trips, increased fares and no rental of parking spaces for park-and-ride, which could lower the subsidy to $17,000.

        Mr. Gieringer said Harrison would like to keep the service.


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