Thursday, July 04, 2002

TANK weighs cutbacks on most routes


Counties say budget shortfall hurting service

By Cindy Schroeder, cschroeder@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT WRIGHT — TANK riders may soon face longer commutes, less frequent bus service and elimination of five routes with poor ridership because of a budget shortfall.

        If approved by TANK's board of directors, service cuts affecting nearly every TANK route would occur on Sept. 14, said Gina Douthat, TANK's communications director. Only five of TANK's 33 routes would be untouched by the proposed service cuts.

IF YOU GO
    • What: Public hearings to discuss proposed changes to many TANK routes.
    • When: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday in Rooms 6, 7 and 8 of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center at RiverCenter Boulevard and Madison Avenue in Covington.
    • Other ways to offer feedback: Call the TANK Passenger Feedback Line at (859) 814-2138, fax TANK at (859) 578-6952 or e-mail TANK at info@tankbus.org.
    A summary of the proposed changes will be on TANK buses this week. The summary also is available by calling (859) 814-2138. Copies also will be available at TANK's offices or by visiting TANK's Web side at www.tankbus.org.
    • Effective date of schedule changes: TANK schedule changes would take effect Sept. 14.
        “Otherwise, everything is affected in some way, whether it's a very minor change or complete elimination,” Ms. Douthat said.

        TANK's board of directors could vote on the proposed service reductions as soon as Wednesday, Ms. Douthat said.

        TANK serves 4.2 million riders a year, including about 12,500 riders in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties and downtown Cincinnati on an average weekday, Ms. Douthat said.

        One of the routes TANK proposes cutting was created this spring to shuttle students from Northern Kentucky University to entertainment districts near the Ohio River, including Newport on the Levee.

        “I can't say TANK's (NKU) River Run deterred drinking and driving, but it provided a safe alternative,” said Jeff Butler, NKU's director of public safety. “I would hate to see the route end.”

        Four other routes are slated for possible elimination: Route 24X Crestview Express, Route 26 Grant's Lick, Route 31X Hands Pike Express and Route 36 Wilder.

        Other routes that have bus service every 30 minutes would get hourly service under the proposed changes. Those include Route 5 Holman/City Heights, Route 7 Rosedale/Latonia, Route 8 Eastern Avenue/Fidelity, Route 11 Fort Thomas/NKU, Route 12 Dayton, Route 16 Grand Towers/St. Luke Hospital East, Route 24/25 Crestview/Alexandria (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Route 1 Florence Mall would have bus service every 40 minutes instead of every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

        Another that could be affected is Route 33, which serves St. Elizabeth Medical Center South in Edgewood. TANK has not yet decided on changes to the route.

        “There are employees who depend on TANK to get to work,” said hospital spokeswoman Karla Webb. “We feel like it is important that public transportation be available to the medical center. We would hope they would find a way to continue service.”

        Another route that would see some of its runs eliminated would be Airport Express, Route 2X. Airport officials said the majority of those riders are airport employees, and that a notice had been posted in break rooms at the facility in Hebron.

        Other routes would have evening or weekend service cut, or portions of routes eliminated under the proposed changes.

        RAMP, TANK's door-to-door service for people with disabilities, will not be cut, but it will not be expanded, as originally planned, Ms. Douthat said.

        Riders will get a chance to comment on the proposed changes next week. Public hearings are set for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington.

        TANK is reducing service because Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties cut TANK's budget request for fiscal year 2003 by $1.5 million, or 15 percent, Ms. Douthat said. Since 1978, Kenton and Campbell counties have funded TANK through their payroll tax, while Boone County has helped pay for the bus service through its general fund.

        “With a cut that size, it's going to affect people,” Ms. Douthat said. “There's no way to come up with that amount of dollars without cutting service that's going to impact people.”

        But Campbell County administrator Robert Horine said, “When they say they're short, they're short from what they had requested. The counties actually increased their contribution by 8.1 percent over what was provided last year. There's an increase in funding (from $11.2 million to $12 million), but it's not the 24 percent that TANK requested.”

        Mr. Horine said that Kenton County could contribute no more than an 8.1 percent increase, based on its projected payroll tax revenues. The other two counties contributed a proportional share, but all three had previously discussed what constituted “a reasonable increase.”

        “Ridership revenues are down, advertising revenues are down, and expenses are up,” Mr. Horine said. “In that kind of scenario, I think it's reasonable that an organization look at which services it can reduce or eliminate to keep them consistent with the demand.”

       Reporter Jim Hannah contributed to this story.
       

       



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