PARTA bus system will be without contract in 2006 if Issue 9 fails to pass

Voters will decide whether or not to continue the tax that supports the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority in next week’s general election.

Issue 9, if passed, will provide PARTA with $3 million per year for the next five years. Issue 9, which passed in 2001, provides more than half of PARTA’s funding. It is a renewal of a sales tax, not a property tax.

If it does not renew, PARTA will have one more year before the current contract expires in 2006.

PARTA is asking for a renewal sales tax of one-quarter percent.

The sales tax is not used to support the Kent State Campus Bus Service, which receives its funding through a separate contract with Kent State.

Joe Yensel, assistant operations manager of PARTA, said students benefit from both campus bus service and PARTA routes. PARTA is able to transport students to remote areas that the university cannot, he said.

Bryan Smith, manager of business development for PARTA, said the tax money helps leverage state and federal dollars. The Federal Transit Administration requires PARTA to raise 20 percent of its funds before it will match it with 80 percent.

“The FTA wants to see local commitment and local support,” he said.

Frank Hairston, marketing equal employment officer and customer service director of PARTA, said PARTA has come through on all of its promises to the community and it seems like the issue will pass.

“The board would be forced to make some difficult decisions if it fails, but I really don’t think it’s going to come to that,” he said. “I would hate to think about if it is not passed.”

Hairston said if the tax is not renewed, it would be terrible for the community.

More than 7,500 people are registered for the Dial-A-Ride service through PARTA, which provides door-to-door transportation during the week. PARTA makes about 550 response trips for about 4,800 passengers per day.

Hairston said ridership has increased steadily over the past few years. PARTA estimates that by the end of this year it will have made nearly 1.2 million trips.

Hairston said a lot of people rely on PARTA, especially the elderly, but many students rely on PARTA as well.

Sophomore nursing major Malika Settles said she uses the campus buses a lot but also uses PARTA buses regularly. She said she would be adversely affected if there were cut backs to the services she uses.

“When (my daughter’s) father works, I have to pick her up on the bus, so I wouldn’t have a way to get her home from daycare,” she said.

“I think (Issue 9) should pass because it’s very helpful to the people who do need to catch the bus who don’t have a car because there aren’t any other bus systems near here,” Settles said.

PARTA would face severe cutbacks if the levy were to fail and the tax revenue be lost. Hairston said discussion about what would happen if the renewal does not pass has not taken place.

Contact public affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected] and transportation reporter David Carr at [email protected].