Special to The Truth
Last week, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) achieved a milestone in the agency’s history by securing a state legislative fix to expand its membership and allow local voters to consider a more fair and sustainable funding structure.
With the passage of the state transportation budget by the Ohio House and Senate, TARTA’s proposed legislative language will now be part of House Bill 74 that will go to Governor DeWine for his signature. The language provides TARTA with a two-year window to expand its membership with approval of a simple majority of its current local government members rather than the unanimous consent previously required under state law.
TARTA currently has seven members: Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Rossford, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Toledo and Waterville. Seeking a state legislative solution was a collaborative effort between TARTA and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce to meet the growing demand for more public transit service in Lucas County and to improve the competitive nature of the region for job attraction and retention.
If Lucas County becomes a member of TARTA, local voters could then consider shifting local funding from a property-tax to a sales tax model. TARTA is the only transit authority in a major Ohio metro area that is not funded by a sales tax.
In 2020, Cincinnati area voters approved a .80 percent sales tax increase for public transit funding to replace an employment tax. 2-2-2
“This is yet another historic and defining moment for TARTA and our region,” said TARTA Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Dunham. “For the first time ever, and with broad support of business and community leaders, we were able to change the statutory language so we can expand public transit to follow the growing opportunities in our region. This will also allow the democratic process to play out in our community and let the people decide if they wish to invest in public transit in Northwest Ohio.”
According to TARTA Board President Kelsie Hoagland representing the City of Waterville, “We reached a major milestone for TARTA and our community. The inclusion of the TARTA language is no coincidence. It is the result of relentless effort and partnership from across the Toledo Region. This display of collaboration demonstrates the importance of what public transit means to our community.”