Letter to the editor: Making public transit a priority in Ohio

Kenny Jackson

Ohio voters will make many important decisions on issues and candidates in the upcoming general election. However, the lack of a competitive challenger to Governor John Kasich has limited the amount of quality discussion Ohioans could be having on statewide issues.

One issue not being discussed enough that should be of interest to Kent State students is the state of public transportation in Ohio. As studies have shown, Millennials are at least twice as likely to use public transit. Ohio’s funding of public transit services has been reduced. According to the 2012 Survey of State Funding for Public Transportation, Ohio was tied at eighth with South Dakota as the state with the least amount of state-source funds going toward public transit per capita in 2010. This is concerning because Ohio is the seventh largest state in population, with many dense urban centers. Ohio should not be in the realm of low-populated rural states in terms of public transit spending.

Kasich’s Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan led the Ohio Department of Transportation to its most expensive season of highway construction ever, totaling $2.5 billion while the budget of dollars going toward public transit has been reduced by 77.9 percent since 2002. In 2014, public transit spending was at just $10.1 million and will stay at that level in 2015.

Students at schools like Kent State could benefit from the state making public transit a higher priority as main campus keeps breaking enrollment records. For students who don’t have access to or can’t afford the upkeep of a car, a better public transit system could help them get around. A survey by Deloitte showed that 67 percent of Millennials would like to live somewhere that “had everything within walking distance,” and 47 percent would be willing to relocate to reduce their commute. With effective public transit, all of northeast Ohio might be considered within “walking distance,” and the desire to relocate because of a commute would be reduced.

A “build it and they will come” approach should be taken for a better public transit system. If a better alternative were provided, people would certainly use it, but unfortunately, there has not been enough pressure put on elected leaders to do anything. Perhaps we should pay more attention to and act on the things that affect our daily lives instead of being swept away by national talking points.

Kenny Jackson

Kent, OH