Monday, May 22, 2000

Metro's asking our views




By CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SOMEWHERE ON INTERSTATE 75 — Metro wants to put us in the driver's seat.

        Go for it. This is our chance to help create a regional transportation system.

        With its MetroMoves survey, the area's prime people mover is putting us in charge of its future. Metro wants to know what kind of mass transit system Greater Cincinnatians need to take them from where they live to where they work and play.

        Passengers on the West Chester Express, the No. 42 bus, took time during their Friday morning commute to offer their suggestions.

        As driver Floyd Thompson smoothly guided the downtown-bound bus along the expressway, passengers spoke in a melting pot of accents reflecting the area's cosmopolitan mix.

Wish list
        They wanted buses to the airport, more downtown express runs, direct routes between outlying counties.

        “In my native India everything is connected by mass transportation. You are not dependent upon your car,” said computer consultant Saumil Shukla.

        Most requested: Light rail. “It's faster and would help Cincinnati grow,” said office manager Margot Ayers.

        After the express departs the recently suburbanized fields of West Chester, the bus riders usually read, doze or answer e-mail.

        This morning, Metro's survey took precedence. The future growth of the system is important to these passengers — and to everyone else in the region.

        New bus routes, light rail and increasing the number of people that Metro serves can create and retain jobs, downtown and in the burbs.

        Art Hung, a Web site project manager, owes his job to the express. “Without this bus,” he said patting the seat, “I would not be working in downtown Cincinnati.”

        He drives down from Centerville to park free and catch the express. A one-way, nonstop bus ride costs $1.50 — less than the going rate for a gallon of gas.

People's express
        Letting people design their mass transit system is not the norm. Paul Jablonski, Metro's general manager, told me transit systems “typically hire consultants. They create a plan in six months and we act on it.”

        Metro's innovative general manager wants to hear directly from the people, riders and nonriders, taxpayers footing the system's bills. He knows more people might catch a bus or vote for a light-rail tax if they feel they have had a say in the matter.

        He also knows the population is booming beyond the city limits of Cincinnati, Metro's main funding source.

        The population of the Butler County township served by the West Chester Express has jumped from 23,553 in 1980 to 56,000. Ridership for the West Chester Express has tripled since 1998. The route started that year to reduce traffic downtown during renovation of Fort Washington Way. Since the bus now carries 300 riders daily, the township and Butler County pledged $113,000 in March to keep the express rolling after Fort Washington Way reopens.

        Similar partnerships between Metro and area governments can keep more cars off the road, cut down congestion, reduce pollution.

        Add up the savings.

        Then tell Metro what you want in our transit system.

        Send letters to: MetroMoves, P.O. Box 8624, Cincinnati 45208. Call toll-free: (877) 708-IDEA (4332). Visit the Web site at: www.metromoves.com.

        Remember, we're in the driver's seat. How far Metro goes depends on us.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

        RADEL ARCHIVES