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Cincinnati Public Schools Board Reacts To Metro Ending XTRA Routes For Students

metro bus
Becca Costello

The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing the elimination of Metro XTRA Service Routes for CPS students on Wednesday.

Last week, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) ended the routes citing the current hiring climate. The district says this would affect roughly 6,000 students. CPS spends approximately $8 million per year with Metro for passes distributed to Cincinnati students. The changes will go into effect Aug. 15. CPS' first day of school is Aug. 19.

Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat said she had a conversation with the CEO of SORTA and specifically asked what options were proposed.

"There were no other options really but to maintain or eliminate the XTRA routes," Amat said.

SORTA said it had engaged with CPS over the past month to evaluate the service, saying eliminating XTRA routes "avoids having to reduce or delay service that was promised to Hamilton County as part of Reinventing Metro."

Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Trimble-Oliver said it could take several months for the routes to be redesigned, which Board Member Eve Bolton called "absurd."

"We might have to get the people that helped them a couple of years ago when we had this kind of resistance to changing routes where we actually had people in the community that could do it better and faster than we were able to get the Metro people to do it, and that's because they don't have the will to do it," Bolton said.

Earlier this week, Bolton said CPS' director of pupil transportation didn't renew the district's contract with Metro for XTRA routes. Board members were not aware of this decision, the Enquirer reports. At Wednesday's board meeting, Bolton said SORTA needs to meet the district's needs and that leadership was notified too late about the decision.

"People are worried about the time to get something done," Bolton said. "Of course, if you work 8 to 5, there probably isn't enough time, but in a crisis, I don't know any serious public agency that doesn't work the hours that it needs to resolve this kind of problem, and I'm hopeful that we can continue this effort together."

Board President Carolyn Jones said the district is being put in a tough position with no other option than to deal with it.

"Irregardless of what the problem is - and we know what the problem is - we have to be proactive in thinking and moving forward," she said.

CPS' concerns with the route eliminations include preventing spread of COVID-19, students having to make bus transfers, and overcrowding. SORTA says the new routes will increase eligibility to students, expand service hours, and offer shorter ride times.

Metro will have a public meeting Thursday at 4 p.m. to address the service changes. It will be streamed live on their Facebook page. The public can join the virtual meeting using the Zoom link.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.