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Published: Friday, 1/17/2014

Perrysburg's public transit has fewer riders, for some commute time lengthened

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ride Right is Perrysburg's new public transportation service and has two vans in service transport residents. Ride Right is Perrysburg's new public transportation service and has two vans in service transport residents.
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Every weeknight, Lisa Justice rides the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Authority bus from Sylvania to Meijer on St. Rt. 20, then gets picked up by a Ride Right van to get to her home in Perrysburg.

When TARTA has to drop off another rider in Maumee, the bus ends up driving past Boundary Street on its way to Meijer. Ms. Justice, who uses a wheelchair, lives on Boundary Street.

"I pass my street to catch a ride back to my house," she said.

The executive assistant at the Ability Center of Greater Toledo in Sylvania said another 90 minutes was added to her commute when TARTA was taken away and Ride Right became Perrysburg's public transportation.

Perrysburg officials say they've received almost no complaints since the city voters opted out of TARTA service in May, 2012 and began its new public transportation, called Ride Right. The service provides $1 rides for residents around Perrysburg, but generally not outside the city. It will take riders to the Maumee Municipal Building and Rossford Meijer outside of city limits to connect to TARTA services. Ride Right works based on customer calls for service, not based on regular routes.

Ride Right serves about 950 customers a month, about 4,500 fewer than what TARTA did in the Perrysburg area.

"There are no calls our service is not able to take," said City Administrator Bridgette Kabat, referring to calls about for rides within Perrysburg. "They are meeting all my expectations. Outside of one call I have heard nothing but positive feedback."

The change in public transportation has saved the city and its taxpayers money.

Perrysburg paid $1.5 million annually for TARTA. Once voters opted out, they approved a five-year, 0.8-mill transit levy that produces about $450,000 per year, costing an owner of a $200,000 house about $49 a year. TARTA costs the same homeowner $153 in 2011.

But considerably fewer people are using public transportation. A TARTA official said it provided an average of 5,572 rides a month in 2011 in Perrysburg. For the past five months, Ride Right averaged 950 rides a month.

Perrysburg Councilman Todd Grayson, like Ms. Kabat, said he was aware of one complaint about Ride Right service since it started June 24. The complaint was a miscommunication about a pick up, and the problem was quickly fixed.

However, Ms. Justice said her need for public transportation became more complicated with the switch.

Instead of being picked up at 7:30 a.m. by TARTA at her front door, as she did in the past, she is picked up by Ride Right at 7 a.m. to get to Meijer for TARTA by 7:30 a.m. Then, on the commute home from work in Sylvania, she asks Ride Right to be at Meijer at 5:30 p.m. to give her extra time in case TARTA has more rides and is late. Sometimes, she said, she hangs out at Meijer for a hour waiting on Ride Right.

Assisted living at Kingston Residence of Perrysburg and senior housing at the Waterford at Levis Commons have their own transportation for residents, but Kim Woda at the Waterford said there are a handful of residents who used to use TARTA and now use Ride Right.

Mr. Grayson said Ride Right has fewer riders than TARTA because it cut out people getting a ride to work who instead could drive.

"The convenience for daily commuters is gone," he said.

Ms. Kabat questioned the rider statics supplied by TARTA, contending they did not represented the amount of Perrysburg resident riders. She claimed riders came from other communities, parked in Perrysburg and took the TARTA buses into Toledo for work.

James Gee, TARTA general manager, conceded that there were park and ride services in Perrysburg, where residents from Bowling Green and elsewhere drove to Perrysburg to catch a TARTA bus to work in Lucas County. Now, he said, those riders have to go to Rossford or Maumee to catch a TARTA ride.

"We saw an increase," Mr. Gee said at other pickups when Perrysburg service stopped. "But not equal to our Perrysburg ridership. I know folks stopped using public transportation."

Mr. Gee said TARTA received complaints from Perrysburg riders and also Toledo residents who struggled to get to Perrysburg after their services stopped.

Ride Right uses two vans at a time, with a third on standby. If there is more demand, Ms. Kabat said, another vehicle and driver could be added.

If people are in need of a ride and not getting one, who don't like the Ride Right hours, or who have any other issues, Mr. Grayson urged them to contact him. He said anyone in Perrysburg who needs to go to the doctor's office or to work is able to do so.

Ms. Justice, meanwhile, is grateful to have her independence back after the end of TARTA service near her home, even if it means for a longer day for her.

"The service is great and all the people are fantastic," she said. 

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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