Bus Schedule Cuts Anger Passengers

Central Ohio Transit Authority officials heard from a number of disgruntled riders today during a public meeting on service cuts by COTA. On January 2nd, riders will see service hours drop by 11%. WOSU’s Sam Hendren reports that rider frustration was evident.

COTA is cutting 75,000 service hours in 2006. That means buses run less frequently, some routes have been shortened and a few eliminated. Doug Moore, COTA’s vice president for customer service said he expected to hear from a disgruntled audience.

“It’s a tough time and we don’t like to reduce service and whenever you reduce service it impacts people and our goal is to minimize those impacts,” said Moore.

The meeting was held to answer riders’ questions about new schedules, but many complained about the company’s financial problems. Bus passenger Karl Gelfer urged COTA to go for a tax increase.

“They need to go for a -cent increase in the levy, forget light rail and improve the bus service,” Gelfer said.

But many of those who spoke complained the cutbacks meant they could no longer rely on COTA for transportation to and from work.

“COTA is making unrealistic schedule changes. I won’t be able to get to work on time and I’ll have to leave work early to get home,” said rider Danny Lang.One woman asked why a prosperous city like Columbus had such problematic public transportation. COTA’s Doug Moore said an inadequate tax base is to blame.

“COTA has one of the lowest funded transit systems in the state of Ohio. We’re a one-quarter percent sales tax compared to a half-percent tax in Dayton and a full one-percent in Cleveland. So we have a rather anemic funding base compared to other transit agencies.”

The cutbacks, a fare increase, and the pending layoffs of drivers are an attempt to restore the company to financial health. Sam Hendren, WOSU News.