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SPARC in need of some shelters

Andy Ouriel • Jan 27, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Some Sandusky city commissioners want to fast track a plan keeping public transportation affordable and safe.

Problem is, they’ll need cooperation from some of the area’s biggest employers and government agencies, all of which benefit from Sandusky Transit services.

Several city officials recently urged area businesses and other local government representatives to help invest resources into transit operations.

One example lobbied among commissioners at a public meeting involved area businesses installing shuttle shelters near popular stops where buses routinely pick up and drop off passengers for work or leisure.    

This would include Kalahari Resort, Kroger, Meijer, the Sandusky Mall, Walmart and other locations.

“We provide bus service throughout all of Erie County, and I don’t know why the city has to pay for all of that,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said. “We are providing a great service. These companies need to step up to the plate and contribute more, or we are going to have to get out of the transit service”

Commissioner Julie Farrar echoed Murray’s stance.

“We are bringing citizens from Sandusky to Perkins Township to Huron for work and for them to spend money in these areas,” Farrar said. “I would think it would be justified to get dialogue with (these governments) and see if they would put up their own bus stops”

City officials would need to first negotiate with companies and other governments, since they can’t build shelters on private property or outside Sandusky without permission first.

There’s no wiggle room in Sandusky Transit’s $1.7 million annual operation to pay for additional shelters. In 2013, the transit service needed a bailout of $318,000 from Sandusky’s everyday operating budget to fully operate. The remaining $1.38 million derived from grants, contracts with local agencies and fare revenue.

In fact, commissioners slammed the brakes on providing any more local tax dollars to public transit. The $16.3 million 2014 everyday operating budget faces a $1.1 million shortfall and several cuts, including layoffs. The cuts must be made by March.

Commissioners asked Sandusky Transit administrator Thomas Schwan to give a presentation centered on seeking additional funds outside the city’s budget for building additional shelters.

A record 190,300 riders boarded Sandusky Transit vehicles in 2013, shattering the previous high of 166,200 passengers a year prior.

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