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Council Hears About Metro Funding Woes

Michael Keating

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority told a Cincinnati Council committee Tuesday it has a broken funding formula and it is looking to fix the problem. 


Board Chairman Jason Dunn and Chief Executive Officer Dwight Ferrell addressed the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.


One idea the SORTA Board recently asked staff to review is a ballot initiative to fund transit in the region.


Dunn said nothing has been finalized yet.  But he said something needs to change soon.


“We’re looking at 2017/2018 being the year where we will have to either reduce routes or look at essentially taking routes from outside of the county and putting them into the city,” Dunn said.


Half of the SORTA budget comes from the city's earnings tax.  The agency also gets funding from other counties to provide bus service in those areas.


Bus ridership has declined or remained flat since 2010.  At the same time costs for providing the service have been increasing. 


SORTA recently announced a goal to provide 20 million rides by 2021.  Right now that number is 16 million rides.


Ferrell said there is an issue of providing transportation for workers.


“The UC Economic Center noted that there are 50,000 health care jobs that Metro cannot serve and 25,000 other manufacturing jobs that are outside a quarter mile of any Metro route,” Ferrell said.


Ferrell also said SORTA in the long-term is looking to match vehicle size to the demand on a particular route.  Right now it only has 40-foot buses to service all routes no matter how many people are riding.


The agency is planning a meeting with stakeholders as it decides whether to move forward with a ballot issue.


Meanwhile, Ferrell also was asked about a decision last month to dismiss four senior level executives.  He said the cuts were about eliminating redundancy and saving money.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.