Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bus riders protest cuts


Changes in Metro routes coming in May

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MOUNT WASHINGTON - Hundreds of east- and west-side commuters riding Metro buses daily will be affected by proposed route changes and cutbacks coming soon.

CHANGES
Metro is proposing changes to improve efficiency that could take place May 30:

Three Mount Washington/Anderson Township area routes are being scrapped, but officials say other routes that will still run can provide the same or close to the same service:

• Route 26 Beechmont-Amelia Express: portions of the route will be served by Route 24, 30 and 75.

• Route 29 Anderson Township Clifton Express: Route 29 will be discontinued, but a portion of the route will be served by Routes 24, 30 and 75.

• Route 70 Rainbow Sun Run: Route 70 will be discontinued but portions will be served by routes 24, 30 and 81.

For details, go to SORTA's Web site at www.sorta.com.

To cut costs and operate more efficiently, the agency that operates the Metro bus system - the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority - wants to change four routes on the west side in Covedale, Price Hill, Delhi and in Green Township.

On the east side, four routes will be altered in Anderson Township and Mount Washington, including more trips to the University of Cincinnati area in Clifton.

Three additional east-side routes with low ridership that duplicate those other four east-side routes would be canceled, said Sallie Hilvers, SORTA's spokeswoman.

"I can't tell you that no one will lose access to their service. For some people, the distance to their service may be greater, but we are looking at the greater needs," she said Tuesday. "It doesn't make sense for us to run a bus for one or two people."

The changes, she said, will help make up for a $4.3 million deficit in the total $72 million, 2004 budget. More than $1 million already has been slashed by eliminating 15 jobs and some administrative expenses, she said.

Metro is making the changes after an analysis of the ridership and routes over the past several months, Hilvers said.

The changes are expected to take effect May 30 after public hearings such as one held Tuesday at the Cincinnati Convention Center.

More than 70 commuters packed the meeting, pleading for continuation of their stops and/or routes.

Several riders who attended were riders of the No. 33 route through Westwood that now stops in Bridgetown but won't after the changes go into effect.

"If you take the No. 33 from Bridgetown, I am going to lose my job," said Elizabeth Burnside, 42, to applause. "I need my job to take care of my family."

Others were angry they would have to walk longer distances to bus routes - some through dimly lit, unsafe areas without sidewalks.

"If I can't get anywhere, I just might as well give up," said a tearful Anna Eisenecher, 72, of Bridgetown. "If this goes through, they are hurting a lot of seniors."

More changes to routes are coming by August in the northern portion of the city and in Hamilton County, Hilvers said.

"Virtually the entire system will change by the end of summer," she said.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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