Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Fare hike saves Harrison bus

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Metro bus route between Harrison and Cincinnati has been saved, at a cost to its riders.

        To make a temporary route permanent, fares will be going up 50 cents each way, from the current $1.50.

        That's preferable to losing the ride, but bus riders said Monday that it will leave them paying more than they should.

        “Are we now subsidizing somebody else?” said Donald Miller of Harrison Township.

        The increase was approved Monday by a majority of Cincinnati City Council members, who voted down a plan to keep fares the same and force the Southern Ohio Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Metro, to eat the cost increase.

        “Once service is established to an area in the region that brings people to our community and which supports jobs, development and the environment, we should not allow it to fail,” Councilman Todd Portune said in a motion to retain the route without an increase.

        The transportation authority is funded through a portion of the city's earnings tax, and Mr. Portune said the cost of keeping the route would not hurt its budget.

        But Paul Jablonski, SORTA general manager, said the council did not have the authority to order his agency to fund the route. The route started during construction of the new Fort Washington Way and was supposed to be halted after the highway reopened.

        Although the route generated 73,000 passenger trips in 1999 and was projected to have 84,000 this year, Mr. Jablonski said the route would not pay for itself.

        In other cities — such as Blue Ash and Cheviot — he said officials have voted to help pay for the cost of service, but Harrison has not done that.

        Mr. Portune — who started a campaign to keep the route from being eliminated — argued the increase makes it one of the most expensive round-trip rides.

        “I think this is nuts,” Councilman James Tarbell said. “By far, the majority of the ridership has said, "We can accept (the increase).'”

        Councilman Pat DeWine said Mr. Portune was using the council to further his campaign for a Hamilton County commissioner's seat in the November election.


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