LIMA — If current trends continue, the Allen County Regional Transit Authority (ACRTA) will lose roughly one-third of its ridership over the next year due to cuts in weekend and night routes undertaken after the public organization failed to pass a transportation levy on the ballot this past November.
Since Ohio Department of Transportation funding is awarded on levels established by ridership numbers, the decrease could, over time, lead to a steadily shrinking of the public transportation company and its eventual disappearance, ACRTA Executive Director Sheila Haney said.
Haney met with Allen County Commissioners, along with ACRTA Board President Brad Taylor, to discuss possible alternatives in order to disrupt the trend, asking for $95,000 from Allen County in order to reinstate Saturday’s routes and offset the steady decrease in ridership.
The county currently allocates no funds to the ACRTA. The City of Lima increased its allocation to $95,000 from $76,000 when Haney made a similar case to city officials.
However, due to an already tight budget, commissioners said they will give the proposal consideration before saying either “yes or “no.” Commissioner Cory Noonan said the best time to do revisit the issue would be in the fall, when budget requests are typically made by county departments.
“I can’t make any promises, but that’s a conversation that’s easier to have in the fall,” Noonan said. “We’re very tight where we’re at.”
The ACRTA does have a secondary option to consider — another attempt at getting public approval of ballot levy to fund the public transportation organization. Due to recent changes by the state, the ACRTA could ask for a smaller 0.1 percent sales tax increase compared to the 0.25 percent it asked for last fall.
If Allen County Commissioners were copacetic to the idea, some of the funds raised by that levy could be earmarked for transportation infrastructure — such as roads and bridges.
A recent sales tax levy proposed by the commissioners that would have added an additional $500,000 per year to the Allen County Engineer’s roads budget, among paying for other capital improvement projects, failed just this past week.
To extend the mileage of its current budget, the ACRTA is considering finding ways to offload some of its more expensive duties, such as door-to-door pickups, to other transportation providers, such as the Area Agency on Aging 3. It is also currently developing solutions to transport second and third-shift workers at a lower operating cost by subsidizing the rides through contracts with the businesses that require those employees and lowering administrative costs.
“This is going to be a future problem if we don’t do something,” Haney said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.