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Cuts loom if Mahoning County voters reject bus levy, WRTA chief says

Published: Sun, October 14, 2012 @ 12:05 a.m.

SEE ALSO: Tuberculosis and children’s agencies seek levy renewals in Mahoning County

By Ashley Luthern



A five-year 0.25-percent sales tax renewal in Mahoning County is needed to keep the Western Reserve Transit Authority fully operational, officials say.

Without renewal, all services will be cut, said Jim Ferraro, executive director of WRTA.

WRTA collected $4.2 million in 2009, $6.9 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2011 in sales tax, which makes up about 70 percent of the transit authority’s funding. The remaining amount is generated by fare-box revenues and federal grants.

The 0.25-percent sales tax was first approved in 2008, and WRTA has until the fall of 2013 to get it renewed. The renewal appears as Issue 3 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“It’s being safe,” Ferraro said of putting the renewal on the ballot early.

“... If it’s approved, we’ll spend the year preparing for changes. There are routes that we’re not really pleased with and we want to make more productive,” he said.

Ferraro said there’s been a growth in the use of EasyGO that provides door-to-door service with small buses and vans throughout the county. The service was a campaign promise when WRTA first put the sales tax on the ballot.

“We take people from Sebring to Victoria Road” in Austintown, he said. “We think we kept most of our promises, but I think we can still do better.”

Director of Transportation Tom Nugen said buses run from 5:40 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Six routes have night service that begin at 7:15 p.m., but night service is not available on Saturday.

Nugen said riders have asked about expanded weekend service, but Ferraro pointed out that the sales-tax renewal “is not additional money.”

“It’s a struggle because we want to keep fares at a point where it’s affordable — 60 to 75 cents, $1 or a little more,” Ferraro said.

Fare for an adult is $1.25, 60 cents for seniors and 75 cents for students.

Marianne Vaughn, WRTA finance director, said the challenge is facing rising costs.

“Our budget keeps creeping up. In 2010, it was $8.5 million. Two years later, it’s $10.7 million. The cost of fuel and insurance keeps increasing, as are maintenance costs,” she said.

Ferraro said WRTA must keep large coach buses at least 12 years under federal guidelines.

“We’re trying to retire buses when it costs more to repair them than purchase new,” he said.

Like many public entities, the majority of WRTA’s budget, about 68.3 percent, goes to labor costs. The transit authority employs about 100 people, which includes about 60 bus drivers, Ferraro said.

Bus drivers have a starting wage of $11.70 an hour, taking five years to reach their full pay of $19 an hour, and receive health benefits, he said.


1bmanresident(607 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Such a shame to see all those giant empty coach buses driving around. Also maybe if they cleaned up the downtown terminal and kick out the "pests" that roam it's halls, ridership may increase.

Or just raise the bus fares so the Entitlement Class can pay for something for once.

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Vote NO on the levy. The buses run empty or near empty most of the time and paying a .25% sales tax to fund then is ludicrous. This is all about pay raises for those empty bus drivers and all the administrators who live off this levy. We don't need this un-needed tax. No in November.

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3NoBS(2758 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Ferraro isn't fooling anyone - the issue is back on the ballot a full year early because it was the pro-Obama voters who carried it. He's counting on that same group supporting him again.

And "all services will be cut?" Really? What did they do before their windfall tax levy? Buses still rode around - mostly empty - and they can do it again. I'll bet the WRTA has never picked up a single passenger on its trip along Sharrott Road, for just one example of the waste that goes on.

Ferraro says he's mandated by federal guidelines to keep those large buses 12 years. Why did he buy them in the first place??? And what OTHER federal and other funding does the WRTA receive? Ferraro has never come clean on where every cent of income comes from.

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4city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Vote YES on issue 3!

The buses I ride are almost always 1/2 to 3/4 full. (except on weekends) If this sales tax isn't renewed, most of those people who depend on the WRTA to: go to work, go to school, go to the doctor, go shopping, or to the grocery store, will be stuck.

Plans are in the works to clean up the downtown terminal.

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5city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

NoBS, before 2008, WRTA was funded by city property taxes. When the sales tax was passed, WRTA became a county entity, and the property tax was replaced by the sales tax.

As I pointed out in my previous post, WRTA bought the large buses because they need them. (It doesn't happen often, but I've seen buses with standing room only) Some are due for retirement. Maybe the newer buses will be smaller, so they can run those on the less-used routes? (whatever they are)

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6busyman(239 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Vote no!! Here we go again. While 90% of society works, pays taxes, follows the rules, we fund those services for the do nothings, that have lost the privilege to have a valid drivers license because of DWI, failure to pay violations, neglecting the laws of the land, screwing up their lives with drugs and just taking all they can from the great society without batting an eye. I am not talking about the part of society that has been afflicted with a disability or agedness; they have other means of transportation that is supplied by local governments. And do not forget, after they pay $100 a month for cell phone service, $125 cable TV/internet Premium service and do not forget low end $100 a month for cigarettes, how can they buy/lease a car and purchase the required insurance coverage. It is easy to ride the doll bus. If the tax fails, why not raise the fares and see what will happen?

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7city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

" I am not talking about the part of society that has been afflicted with a disability or agedness; they have other means of transportation that is supplied by local governments."

WRTA is that means of transportation, locally!!!

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8lee(544 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

$19 bucks an hr. I vote NO . I wish my I could stay in business only making 30% of my cost and getting everyone else to give me money to run on . It don't work that way in the real world

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9redeye1(5612 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

As long as Jim Ferraro has anything to do with the WRTA I will be voting NO! He has to be the biggest waste of taxpayers monies if I ever saw one.

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10endthismess(463 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Agree with biteme. VOTING NO! Keep all that trouble right where it originates from so the suburbs can have the police available for the citizens voted for the police to do...and not to be in every single store on 224 dealing with the shoplifters the WRTA drops off to all the retailers.

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11dmacker(518 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Don't take my word for it. See for yourself how many riders are on the next WRTA bus you see anywhere. I have never seen a bus with over a couple of passengers and most are completely empty. The only time I've seen more riders was when they filmed the tv comercial at Walmart and those people only rode across the parking lot. We could get by cheaper by paying cab fare for those who need transport and still save money over a couple of riders on one of those big gas guzzling buses. But then where would the WRTA drivers find another job paying $19 per hour?

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12city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

@ thethinker, is 2010 the most recent stat available? Are you sure that 2010 wasn't an anomalous year? Do you know that WRTA buys fuel in bulk with other local fleets, and so isn't subject to the daily fluctuations of fuel prices?

@ dmacker, It costs me about $6.50 to take a taxi from home to downtown. I'm usually one of the last passengers picked up in the morning, on my way to work; there are usually about 15-20 other passengers on the bus when I get on. I take a different route on the way home, and I'm usually one of the first to get off. Also, that bus is usually much more crowded. You do the math. Are you sure cab fare would be cheaper?

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13southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

People make me laugh...you think the busses bring crime and poverty to your neighborhood?

Most of the people that ride busses must do so to earn a living.

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14Pyroc(136 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

First and foremost the WRTA needs to downsize a good portion of their bus fleet to smaller, more fuel efficient buses. Very few full size buses are needed for their routes. Second, the ridiculous amount of money the WRTA has spent on remodeling their offices needs to be looked into. Granted, the offices probably needed some upgrading, but the millions that was spent was absolutely a total waste of money. The amount of money they spent on paving, and then fencing-in the empty lot next to the bus garage is also sin. A good portion of the lot is not useable, nor needed for the buses or even employee parking. Jim Ferraro should be held accountable for his obscene waste of taxpayer money.

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