The Delaware County Transit Board (DCTB) held two public hearings Monday to discuss an upcoming reduction of services and take comments and suggestions from the public.
Delaware Area Transit Agency Executive Director Denny Schooley explained that in 2015, the Ohio Department of Transportation provided DATA $1 million in expiring federal funds. Schooley said DATA made a decision to use these funds to expand fixed route service to include Saturday service, earlier and later weekday service, and additional frequency in the U.S. Highway 23 corridor.
The DCTB estimated that this funding would last for three years to provide these additional services with the anticipation and hope of finding an alternative replacement for these funds.
Schooley told attendees Monday that replacement funds never materialized and said the services added in 2015 would be discontinued until additional funding can obtained.
Effective March 1, 2018, all Saturday routes, the weekday midday Green Routes, and the Wednesday Pink Route will be discontinued along with the 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. runs of all four Delaware County routes.
“We are functioning without [the $1 million of federal funds],” Schooley said. “Just not at the level we would like to and that’s the same situation that almost every transit system in Ohio is in. As an example, Cleveland is raising rates and cutting services; as large as they are, that’s what they have to do.”
Schooley said if DATA is going to obtain local government funding, it would have to come from the Delaware County Commissioners. Schooley said in the past the commissioners have approved funds to help DATA purchase vehicles.
Schooley said DATA cannot put an income tax levy on the ballot like a school district because it is a county agency, so it would have to put forth a sales tax or property tax.
“My personal issue is I don’t believe are serving the county, as a whole, well,” Schooley said. “I think that we’ve done a pretty darn good job with Delaware city, but that’s where the core of the people who need our services are.”
Besides that, Schooley said the county commissioners only have a quarter percent left that they can tax and said he doubted the commissioners would use that last available quarter percent tax for transit because it removes an important financial option.
Schooley said he didn’t want to raise fares because some riders already think fares are too high and some customers couldn’t afford it.
“We don’t want to price ourselves out of being useful,” Schooley said. “Raising fares wont help our customers and that won’t help us.”
Schooley the board will be accepting public comments and ideas until the end of the month and the board hopes to have a plan soon.
“I believe that putting together a great plan, great ideas, and selling that to the right people is where our future is going to lie in order to continue to provide good public transit for the county,” Schooley said.
Comments can be mailed to 119 Henderson Court, Delaware, Ohio, 43015, and questions or comments can be left by phone at 740-368-9033, ext. 1.
DATA will receive public comments until Jan. 29.
Contact Glenn Battishill at 740-413-0903. Follow him on Twitter @BattishillDG.