First State of Metro event touts high marks for Cincinnati's transit system, invites community input

CINCINNATI - With an updated vision and mission statement, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board members are focused on creating a more regional service, said Metro CEO and General Manager Terry Garcia Crews, during the first State of Metro meeting Nov. 19.

To help figure out what additional service would look like, SORTA is seeking community input as they look for new ways to meet transportation needs. SORTA operates Metro bus services in a 262-square mile area covering Hamilton County and some parts of Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties.

“When we went out to the community, there were a lot of concepts given to us, and I’m using this analogy: People have told us that they want a cake, but we’re not sure what that type of cake might be. So, the refinement is going to kind of take on that approach,” Garcia Crews said.

Public transit users will be invited to take a survey that will help determine what type of routes are needed for specific parts of the city.

For some Metro users, like Kiara Jackson, 22, that input might call for new or modified routes.

“I just feel like they should change some of their routes around,” the Sayler Park resident said.

While she has been using Metro to get to work for years and likes the bus service, there is not a direct route from Sayler Park to Delhi Township. Instead, she takes a bus to downtown Cincinnati, then another to Delhi Township.

Metro: "First among peer cities" in efficiency

The Nov. 19 State of Metro was a chance for SORTA to show how its services stack up to other regions. Compared to transportation systems in 11 peer regions (identified by Agenda 360 and Vision 2015), Cincinnati ranked first in operational efficiency, according to a study by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.

The service level provided by Metro was ranked number seven out of the 12 cities, and state and local funding was number 10.

While Cincinnati lagged behind others in service levels and state and local funding, many of the peer cities offer additional forms of public transportation, said Julie Heath, University of Cincinnati Economics Center director.

When Cincinnati was compared to four peer cities with only bus-only public transit, Cincinnati was number one in service level provided and number five in state and local funding.

“Due to Metro’s current dependence on fare revenue … expanding services may require additional local, state or federal funding,” Heath said.

Metro’s proven operational efficiency “should position it favorably to receive and efficiently manage additional funds,” she added.

With 348 buses in its fleet, Metro provided about 17 million rides in 2012, said Metro Public Affairs Manager Jill Dunne. Numbers for 2013 are expected to be about the same.

Annual revenues for 2013 are $91.9 million, Dunne said. Metro’s estimated annual expenses for the year also are $91.9 million. Expenditures include personnel, fuel, bus parts, supplies and utilities.

At the annual meeting, Metro announced it will balance its 2014 budget with no fare increase or service reduction, "the fourth year in a row of maintaining current service levels and fares for the community."

Having partnered with Metro for the past two years, Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens has seen the transit service’s impact on students, whose success depends not only on teachers and education but also on transportation.

“The economic vitality of a region depends on a skilled workforce, and that’s why a higher education is critical,” Owens said at State of Metro.

Recent SORTA, Metro moves

SORTA representatives launched the go*Forward transit plan in 2012. While it was designed for representatives to establish and focus on long-term goals, some short-term improvements already have been introduced.

In August, Metro added two east-west crosstown routes. One new route connects the Glenway Crossing transit center, the new Mercy Health West Hospital, the North Bend Road Corridor and Oakley. The other connects the Glenway Crossing transit center to uptown and Hyde Park.

The new Metro*Plus limited-stop service also was introduced in August as a pre-cursor to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Montgomery Road Corridor. Ten new buses were added to provide service every 15 minutes, connecting the Montgomery Road Corridor, which includes Kenwood, Xavier, uptown, downtown and The Banks. The limited-stop services run 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

“We wanted to be very methodical in implementing BRT. We just didn’t want to go ahead and just throw all this BRT service out there. We wanted to make sure that it actually was going to work,” Garcia Crews said.

Ridership on the limited-stop service has tripled since it was introduced, indicating that the service is something the community wants, she added.

New electronic payment fare options also are available, said SORTA Chair Suzanne Burke.

Going forward

In early 2014, Metro will open the new Uptown Transit District, which is  under construction in four key

transit areas:

  • University on Jefferson
  • The medical center area, including stops near Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and UC Health/University Hospital
  • The Clifton Heights business district near Hughes Corner, and
  • On Vine between McMillan and Calhoun

Based on community input, SORTA is looking at adding more express routes, park-and-ride lots and transit centers to better serve suburban areas.

Smaller, on-call buses are being considered as well.

“Once we refine the vision, we can go cost it out to determine what the actual price tag is,” Garcia Crews said.

What is SORTA?

SORTA, a non-profit agency, operates using federal, state and local earning taxes as well as fares from riders.

  • The service area population is more than 845,000.
  • The agency employs about 850 people, most of whom are bus drivers. 
  • Run by a 13-member volunteer board of trustees
Print this article Back to Top

Comments

or Subscribe now so you can share your opinion! It’s only a penny for a month trial.

Latest Forecast
More Local News
Help on way for kids who had trip funds stolen
Help on way for kids who had trip funds stolen

Help is on the way for student's at a local day care who had their hopes of a field trip to an amusement park literally stolen away by…

Police ID body found in ditch along Rapid Run
Police ID body found in ditch along Rapid Run

The body of a 26-year-old man was found Saturday afternoon in a ditch along Rapid Run Road has been identified.

Reds slump in 7-1 loss to Yankees
Reds slump in 7-1 loss to Yankees

Brandon McCarthy earned his first win for the Yankees with an impressive debut in pinstripes, and Brett Gardner drove in three runs from the…

Diversity, strong history define Rockdale Temple
Diversity, strong history define Rockdale Temple

Rockdale Temple's congregation can't be neatly pigeonholed. It's made up a diverse group -- interfaith couples,…

A decade later, love finally wins out
A decade later, love finally wins out

Both Jennifer and Andrew knew what they were feeling was love at first sight, but both pretended those feelings weren't real for a full…

PHOTOS: Day Two of Buckle Up Music Festival
PHOTOS: Day Two of Buckle Up Music Festival

Despite the wet weather, crowds gathered along the Ohio Riverfront Downtown Friday for the first evening of Buckle Up, a new country music…

Infant born in back seat of car along I-75
Infant born in back seat of car along I-75

In years to come, two Tri-State parents will have a wild story to tell to their son born early Saturday morning.

Reds fall to Yankees 4-3 with no Votto, Phillips
Reds fall to Yankees 4-3 with no Votto, Phillips

Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer, and David Phelps pitched the Yankees to a fast start in the second half, leading New York to a 4-3…

Sheriff: Butler County detox center 'a bad idea'
Sheriff: Butler County detox center 'a bad idea'

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones stresses safety in his opposition of a detox center for heroin addicts to be part of the Butler County…

It's not your normal potluck, and you're invited
It's not your normal potluck, and you're invited

How many times have you taken part in a potluck, and then left feeling stuffed, bloated and in regret of eating macaroni and cheese, pulled…