Thursday, December 19, 2002

Park-ride gets short-term reprieve

By Jill Hanning
Enquirer contributor

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Commuters who rely on the Metro Park-n-Ride service, which runs from the Meijer off Tylersville Road to downtown Cincinnati, can continue to climb aboard through March.

Township trustees decided Tuesday to take $20,100 from the parks and recreation fund to keep the route operating.

The requisition was passed with minimal discussion at Tuesday's township meeting - compared to the Dec. 3 meeting when more than 70 riders gathered to protest the route's cancellation.

Still, it appears the issue is far from resolved.

"It looks like we have robbed Peter to pay Paul back," Trustee David Tacosik said Tuesday. "The burden should be borne by those taking part in the service."

Fairfield also decided to temporarily sustain its Metro Park-n-Ride service a few weeks ago, but discussed potential options to preserve the service's long-term, including seeking federal assistance and raising fares. Similar options are being considered by West Chester, where the fare is $1.75.

Officials also discussed moving the parking from Meijer, where Metro leases part of the lot, to a space owned by the township to cut down on Metro's overall costs.

At Tuesday's meeting, Assistant Administrator Judith Carter detailed where the West Chester riders live, based on a survey of about 300 riders. West Chester accounts for the largest portion at 43 percent. Liberty comprises 14 percent, Mason 14 percent, Hamilton 8 percent, Middletown 5 percent and the south Dayton suburbs 16 percent.

Eight buses in the morning and eight in the evening provided about 121,000 rides over the past year, wrote Metro CEO and General Manager Paul Jablonski in a letter to Administrator David Gully.

"I think I'm part of the silent majority that voted against the busing," said Allen Baxter, a resident and the only citizen to comment at Tuesday's meeting. "If I worked in Cincinnati, I would have a problem with expecting my neighbors' taxes to pay for my ride."

Butler County voters rejected a sales tax increase to keep the bus service running past Dec. 31, when the county bus service is scheduled to go out of business.

The trustees agreed to table any further discussion until it is clear how much the federal government will contribute. Mr. Jablonski wrote that Butler County might qualify for federal urban transit dollars based on a population shift.

Without outside assistance, it is unlikely that the bus service will be able to continue.

"The board is saying we support Park-n-Ride, we support public transportation, but it's a balance," Trustee Catherine Stoker said.

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