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YOUNGSTOWN WRTA urges passage of levy



Published: Tue, April 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



In March, 110,859 riders used WRTA; the number of adult riders rose 40 percent.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Job cuts for workers and fewer services for riders are ahead if WRTA's four-year renewal levy fails.

Because the 2-mill property tax levy generates $1 million -- 20 percent of Western Reserve Transit Authority's operating budget, significant cuts will be required if voters reject the levy, said Jim Ferraro, executive director.

Passage of the levy will not increase taxes, he stressed. It is a renewal levy that has been in place since 1982. Before initial passage, he said, a lack of operating funds forced WRTA to shutdown for about a month in 1981.

Over the past year, ridership has grown significantly, up 13 percent over 2000, Ferraro said. Ridership in January marked a record increase, up 24 percent over January 2001.

Night services

Ferraro attributes much of the increase to expanded night services. Adult riders who use the bus to get to and from work account for the bulk of night riders.

Overall, the number of riders is growing steadily, Ferraro said. In March, 110,859 riders used WRTA, up 2 percent over March 2001; the number of adult riders was up 40 percent.

Equipment and WRTA properties have also improved over the past several months.

Since January, WRTA added 22 new low-floor buses to its fleet. The new buses make loading and unloading easier, especially for elderly and handicapped riders, Ferraro said.

Retired buses are being sold, "but they are not going out of here like hot cakes," said the Rev. Edward Noga, who sits on the WRTA board.

During the board's April meeting, the board authorized Ferraro to solicit bids for the purchase and installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for all WRTA buildings, and to solicit bids for the purchase and installation of exterior lighting at the Mahoning Avenue building.

Station rehabilitation

Passage of the levy, Ferraro added, would allow WRTA to continue its rehabilitation of Federal Station. In recent months, the parking lot at the station has been renovated and new shelters were built.

There are no plans for additional shelters at stops. But if it is determined that more are needed, he said, the levy would help by providing the 20 percent local-funds match required for federal grants sought for capital improvements.

kubik@vindy.com




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