Friday, November 03, 2000

Transit systems join forces

Agreement aims to expand services in Hamilton, Butler counties

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — The transit systems of Hamilton and Butler counties Thursday signed an agreement that in the short run could mean more “park-and-rides” for commuters and the development of light rail in the long run.

        The agreement between the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which operates Metro, and the Butler County Regional Transit Authority enables the two systems to develop joint transit services.

        “This is a recognition that southern Butler County is increasingly interconnected with Hamilton County, both economically and socially,” said Fairfield City Manager Art Pizzano. “This is symbolic as well as functional.”

        Officials also said the agreement shows increased regionalism throughout Greater Cincinnati — key if the proposed light rail system is to receive federal funds.

        “This is the kind of agreement necessary if we are to see a truly regional system,” said Jim Duane, executive director of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, which is overseeing development of a proposed light rail system. “And it's another forward step in overcoming parochialism.”

        The first phase of the light rail would run up Interstate 71 from downtown Cincinnati to Blue Ash, with the second phase slated for Northern Kentucky. That was made possible after Metro and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky signed a similar cooperative agreement in June 1999. Long-range plans also include a branch from downtown into Butler County.

        Estimates for the first phase run as high as $800 million, and voter approval for local tax dollars would be needed.

        “We're hoping this will serve as an example for Warren and Clermont counties for the future,” OKI light rail project manager Judi Craig said.

        The agreement between BCRTA and Metro keeps the financial independence of both systems, and keeps labor issues separate.

        But Metro and BCRTA, which began service in May 1999 and now carries 2,000 riders daily, will work together on sharing routes and services, such as the recently expanded Job Bus and future park-and-rides.


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