TARTA Next Gathering Outlines Regional Transit Plans

Attending the November 15 TARTA Next event were Maumee council members Margo Puffenberger, Jim MacDonald, Philip Leinbach and TARTA Maumee representative Bud Thomson. The group checked out a number of vehicles parked inside the Glass City Center, including this electric TARTA Flex vehicle, which offers door-to-door ride services in Lucas County and Oregon.
Waterville TARTA representative Kelsey Hoagland joins Waterville Mayor Tim Pedro on board a TARTA bus. Pedro holds an award given to TARTA’s partner communities. MIRROR PHOTOS BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — For decades, the name TARTA – Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority – has elicited thoughts of large, diesel-spewing buses serving mostly the downtown Toledo area.

With new leadership, funding and “out-of-the-bus” thinking, TARTA is aggressively moving forward on its promise to provide customer-responsive services to everyone in Lucas County and Rossford.

“TARTA has undergone a massive expansion and transformation in the last three years, and while many Team TARTA members behind the scenes worked tirelessly to make that happen, it could not have been accomplished without many of the leaders and community partners in this room with us today,” CEO Laura Koproski told those attending a November 15 TARTA Next gathering at the Glass City Center. “Let’s keep it moving forward.”

Surrounded by several new vehicles – including the all-electric TARTA Flex – guests heard about those accomplishments and plans for the future.

“Voters gave us the modern funding system for the resources we need to deliver the transit system this community deserves,” said Mary Morrison, president of the TARTA board of trustees, referring to the passage in November 2021 of a .5-percent sales tax for all of Lucas County and Rossford. “It was truly a new day for all of us at TARTA. Our promise was to begin expanding service, address our backlog of capital needs and enhance the customer experience within 18 months.”

By November 2022, the TARTA Next plan of action was approved, listing specific short-term and long-term goals: redesigning services to match the way people travel, making it easier and faster for more people to get to work and creating more opportunities to use TARTA for different kinds of trips, such as work, shopping and entertainment.

Using technology, a customer advisory committee, partnerships with area organizations and $20 million in grants, TARTA has already met round one goals: establishing, extending and modifying fixed routes with new services to places like Springfield Township; updating buses and bus stops; introducing a new, affordable and convenient fare system; the addition of TARTA Flex and the enhancement of TARPS. TARTA also brought back the beloved Muddy Shuttle to Saturday home Mud Hens games and provided 2,100 Youth Summer Blast Passes so youths ages 6-19 could ride all summer at no charge.

Lou “Bud” Thomson is Maumee’s board of trustees representative, joining in 2020. While he didn’t know anything about buses, Thomson was selected for his business experience, as TARTA was working on planning and budgeting.

Since then, he’s seen firsthand how TARTA has become more customer-responsive – not just to Toledo riders, but also to those in Maumee and all over. The 17-member customer board includes one person from each area of the community, in addition to riders who need paratransit and Flex services. That has given TARTA a firsthand understanding of what customers need.

“We’re very customer-focused now. Before, we didn’t have that interaction,” Thomson said.

Based on feedback, Maumee’s fixed route 31 has been altered to include stops at Meijer, Arrowhead Park, Maumee Stamping, Side Cut Crossings and the former St. Luke’s Hospital. Used in combination with Flex, customers can literally get from doorstep to doorstep anywhere in the region – whether for lunch, doctors’ appointments, work or entertainment, Thomson said.

Flex is growing in popularity with customers in the Anthony Wayne area as well – including Waterville, Whitehouse and Monclova Township – said Waterville board member Kelsie Hoagland.

“It’s a demand-responsive service that you contact when you want to use it,” Hoagland said. “It’s eco-friendly vehicles that are more nimble to go down residential streets and provide door-to-door service. We want to meet people where they are.”

As the Waterville representative, the No. 1 question Hoagland heard from her constituents was about the Muddy Shuttle, which delivered customers to downtown Toledo for Mud Hens games. That was discontinued for years, but reintroduced this past season, delivering customers to six home games on the busiest night – Saturdays. 

“We’re trying to push it to see if we can add Friday night,” Thomson said, explaining that services are added based on the dates of highest game attendance and the communities that have the largest number of Mud Hens ticket sales.

At the same time, TARTA has responded to area communities with bus service during local festivals and fireworks events. 

Using technology and teaming up with organizations and area municipalities will guide TARTA’s next set of goals, Thomson said. While Flex is available in Monclova Township for now, eventually that community may need a fixed route, which will require working with local leaders to figure out which route makes sense – just as TARTA did with Holland and Springfield Township.

TARTA’s next 5- to 10-year plan calls for improving routes and moving toward zero-emission transit. Recently, TARTA received a $9 million Federal Transit Administra-tion grant for eight zero-emission electric buses and six new level-three electric charging stations. Thomson said talks are also centered around placing solar cells on top of the Central Avenue bus barn, which is targeted for renovation.

“I think that Laura and her team are – to steal a quote – ‘thinking outside the bus,’” Thomson said.

Hoagland also credits Koprowski and her team for transforming a system that was once in disrepair and out of touch with the community into a regional service that will cover a variety of needs in a customer-friendly way.

“Team TARTA is something that’s truly amazing, and the story of TARTA just keeps growing,” Hoagland said.

For information on TARTA services, visit www.tarta.com.

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