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Survey: Most respondents favor sales-tax renewal to fund WRTA



Published: Mon, August 13, 2012 @ 12:02 a.m.

By Ashley Luthern

aluthern@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A majority of people surveyed by a marketing firm say they support the renewal of a 0.25-percent sales tax that funds Western Reserve Transit Authority.

WRTA hired Burges & Burges Strategists, a Euclid-based marketing company, about two months ago for a four-month contract costing $22,500, said Marianne Vaughn, WRTA director of finance.

The firm administered the surveys at a cost of $3,300, Vaughn said.

“We needed to see where we made strides and where we had fallen down,” said Jim Ferraro, WRTA executive director.

The online survey drew 312 responses, and 62.5 percent said they would support the sales-tax renewal on the fall ballot, according to records.

Of people from Youngs-town who took the survey, about 73 percent said they support the renewal. The two highest-represented suburbs in the survey were Boardman and Austintown, and the percentages of people favoring renewal were about 60 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Burges reported that a minority of people shared negative feelings about WRTA, mainly that WRTA primarily serves the inner city and that buses look underutilized and empty.

A telephone poll conducted by AMM Political Strategies, which was hired by Burges, surveyed 600 people July 13-14. Respondents started at 54.5 percent for the issue, 12.3 percent against and 33.2 percent undecided.

Then, respondents were given seven statements and asked if those statements were a “very good reason” or “not a good reason” to support the sales-tax renewal.

For example, two of the statements were, “The issue would maintain current services for seniors, people with disabilities and workers who need to get to work, appointments and shopping” and “this ballot issue is a renewal and will not raise taxes.” After both statements, 82.3 percent of respondents said they were a very good reason to support the renewal.

After going through all seven statements, respondents were then asked how they will vote, with 79.8 percent for the renewal, 10.8 percent against and 9.3 percent undecided.

Ferraro said the sales-tax renewal is vital to WRTA and makes up 70 percent of the budget, with the remaining being funded by fare-box revenues and federal grants.

WRTA sales-tax revenue has grown since 2009, when it collected about $4.2 million, to $6.9 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2011.

Revenue for the first five months of this year, $3.2 million, surpasses that period from 2011. The transit authority’s 2012 budget is about $10.7 million, Vaughn has said.


Comments

1southsidedave(4840 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

A survey of 600 people is too small of a sample to use for accurate probability testing

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2buster62(24 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Renew the WRTA tax. Why?

The people who the survey company probably asked, never rode a bus. Try it. Plastic seats, diesel smoke, people on cell phones, people eating.
I wish WRTA would outlaw Cell Phones on busses.

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3NoBS(2002 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Thinker - the tax was put on the ballot one year before it expires because they're counting on all the entitlement crowd to come out and support it again when they support Obama again.

And it is very wasteful to send empty buses around the suburbs. Suburban life is not set up for mass transit - nobody there wants to walk blocks and blocks to a bus stop, stand around in the rain or snow for a half hour waiting for a bus, walk to their destination at the other end of the ride, then repeat it all to come home. That's before having to lug any purchases around. That's simply not how things work in the suburbs. And doing things that way would not be an improvement.

I'm voting NO.

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4city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

"The WRTA does not serve the entire county, unless you consider running empty buses around the suburbs as providing a service."

WRTA serves the entire county by either having fixed routes, or providing a door to door van for those too far away from a fixed route.

"The WRTA is not cost effective or efficient, costing the taxpayers almost $2 per mile for every passenger moved one mile."

I wonder how much it costs each tax payer to let a driver use one lane-mile of road?

"The WRTA is not environmentally friendly, burning one gallon of expensive diesel fuel every three miles, with only four people on the bus. The buses were driven one million miles plus, you do the math on the cost for fuel."

The vast majority of riders don't ride because it is the environmentally friendly choice. (but, what are the passenger miles per gallon of fuel?) They ride because that's how they get go work, or the doctor, or to get groceries, etc.

"The WRTA provided 20% fewer passenger miles in 2010 than it did in previous years, despite spending almost twice as much money."

Many new routes were introduced in the later part of 2009. The routes that have proved to be unsuccessful since then (driving many miles with few passengers, skewing the number you cite) have been discontinued.

"The WRTA got millions in stimulus money from the federal government and spent it on remodeling the administrative offices, not public service."

It would have been illegal for WRTA to use those funds for anything other than what the funds were allocated for.

"The bus authority needs to be audited, since fringe benefits costs for employees are more than sixty percent, meaning that for every dollar paid in base salary the WRTA pays another sixty cents for benefits.

A large part of the WRTA budget is not fully disclosed in financial reports, but is merely shown as administrative costs."

I don't think an audit would be a bad idea. I wonder how much it would cost to audit every government angency before they came to the voters asking for money?

"The WRTA needs to be abolished and bus service around the area should be consolidated. Ever notice how many government buses are driving around?"

If the sales tax fails (maybe not this November--you're right about them starting a year early) WRTA will cease to exist, and there will no longer be any form of mass transportation in Mahoning county. Thousands of people will lose their means of getting to work, to the doctor, to the grocery store, etc.

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5bone303(3 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The people who are in favor of this sales tax renewal must be people who do not own any property and are renters. What a waste of property owners money to run empty buses around the suburbs. I'm voting NO

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6walter_sobchak(1977 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

bone303,
Excellent comment except for the fact that this is a sales tax, not a property tax. The WRTA is a valuable service for many in the county at a minimal cost to me. It is 25 cents on $100 of taxable goods and everyone pays it.

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7city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

"The cost of the door to door service as you call it, is even more expensive than the $2 per mile for the regular bus. The demand service costs the taxpayers $4.16 per mile."

That's why they do as much as they can with the fixed route services. But, that's just not practical for the more rural parts of the county, where a bus might only be needed once a week.

"The comment about the fewer miles of passengers is not logical. Whatever the reason, the number of miles that passengers were carried in 2010 was 4 million compared to 5 million in 2009."

You never provided a link to the report, and the details are in the units of measurment. If the buses ran 1000 miles and provided rides to 100 passengers one year, but then ran 1500 miles and provided rides to 110 passengers the next year, the passenger miles would be less. (but since you didn't link to the report, this is only speculation)

"As to the cost for the average driver, if he/she spent as much per mile as the WRTA, it would cost $24,000 a year. Whom do you know that could afford that?"

My point is that no form of transportation pays for itself, and they are all subsidized.

"The liberal green environmentalists led by the Obama administration call for spending on mass transit for environmental reasons. Even the study that was used for this article was funded for that reason around the country."

As more people ride the buses, the passenger miles per gallon increase. Before long, each passenger is using less fuel than if they were able to drive individually. But like I said, few people around here are riding because of environmental concerns.

"The tax should be revised to make the WRTA an agency of Mahoning County government, disbanding the board, and the revenues from the sales tax should be divided between essential mass transportation services and funding the criminal justice system."

I don't think that's a bad idea.

"The WRTA promised that if they built an countywide bus system, that the riders would come. Exactly the opposite has happened."

Can you provide total ridership numbers over the last several years to prove this?

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8redeye1(4687 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Plain and simple Just vote NO!!!!!!

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9city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

thethinker, thanks for the link.

In 2005, there were 1,426,804 unlinked trips.
In 2006, there were 1,541,637 unlinked trips.
In 2007, there were 1,173,929 unlinked trips.
In 2008, there were 1,310,472 unlinked trips, even with weekend service being cut.
In 2009, there were 1,707,004 unlinked trips.
In 2010, there were only 1,165,924 unlinked trips.

I don't know why ridership declined so much in 2010. But, 2009 sure seems successful, and service wasn't even expanded to current levels, until February of that year.

Although I'm fine with more studies, I still fail to see any proof that WRTA doesn't "provide the optimal service to the highest number of riders without the tremendous cost and waste." In a sprawled community like this one, maybe the numbers you're seeing are the best possible? Maybe, instead of serving the entire county, with all of its rural townships, maybe the urban communities: Ausintown, Boardman, Campbell, Struthers, Youngstown, etc. should come together to form a funding source for WRTA? (although, in an ideal world, I'd like to see the urban communities of Trumbull and Mercer Counties included in a truly regional transit service)

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10city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

1. Like I said, I don't know why ridership was so low for 2010.
2. Part of the reason WRTA appears so inefficient is because it serves the entire county, and not just the urban communities within the county.
3. Raising the fares to eliminate the sales tax would probably make them prohibitively expensive. But, as I see it, there is no point in raising the fares with the sales tax in place, as WRTA doesn't need more funds. I believe I could find a quote from Jim Ferraro, back in 2008, stating that he would have asked for less than 0.25% if he could.

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11Silence_Dogood(1383 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

" 25 cents on $100 of taxable goods"

Chump change, help out the poor, elderly,and those without the ability or means to drive .

Vote yes.

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12walter_sobchak(1977 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Silence,
Agreed. I was at the Wal-mart in Liberty last week. As the WRTA bus pulled up, I watched a disabled man with hand crutches quickly scurry outside to get on. That sight alone will cause me to vote for the levy. I then drove past the National College site and there were a half-dozen students waiting for the bus in the cemetary grass. We bitch and moan about people not trying to make something for themselves and then, when we can do a very small part in raising the quality of life, we complain. This is a county tax and the dollars stay local and can be used for matching federal dollars. C'mon, man!

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