2014 goal: Don’t use city funding

Despite receiving state and federal funds in addition to local fare money, Sandusky Transit Services still needed about a $318,000 bailout from Sandusky’s everyday operating budget to negate a shortfall in 2013.
Andy Ouriel
Apr 21, 2014
Sandusky officials appreciate the rapid evolution of local public transportation and its offerings.

But they’re disturbed by Sandusky Transit’s recent reliance on local funding to keep the wheels rolling.

Despite receiving state and federal funds in addition to local fare money, transit services still needed about a $318,000 bailout from Sandusky’s everyday operating budget to negate a shortfall in 2013.

SPARC offers big buses, or small

City commissioners provided the bailout, a necessary transaction, amid their own fiscal crisis, highlighted by a $1.1 million shortfall in the $16.3 million everyday operating budget in 2014.

To balance their budget, commissioners in February scaled back on many public services, including the elimination of three fulltime firefighter positions.

Had transit services broken even, city officials could’ve preserved some programs, services and staffing levels Fast forward to today, and commissioners begrudgingly budgeted about $60,000 in transit services just in case they zip into the red once again in 2014. But it won’t be needed, Sandusky Transit administrator Thomas Schwan said.

Shelters help comfort waiting riders

“We know the budget crunch the city is in, and we are going to (try) and never access any money from the general fund” Schwan said. “That is my goal” Any reductions to Sandusky Transit will surely impact area riders. Here’s a look at some recent topics Schwan discussed with commissioners about how transit operations plan to create and conserve funding in the future: 

Officials brainstormed several ways to juice up revenue for Sandusky Transit operations. Among them:

Advertising on buses
People representing several area companies recently submitted bids to slap or wrap a particular operation’s name and services on transit buses and other related property. City officials plan to review the bids before announcing the winners. It’s likely the advertisements could pop up on buses sometime this year.

Billing Medicaid directly
Sandusky Transit workers want to directly bill Medicaid to receive a larger payout. Medicaid subsidizes rides for certain classifications of people boarding transit buses, such as those receiving services from the Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities or Erie County Job and Family Services. Laws today forbid transit administrators from directly billing Medicaid. But officials believe they can soon start directly billing Medicaid, thus eliminating a ‘middleman’ and reap a larger return. In the most extreme case, transit officials can receive $18 more per ride if they can directly bill Medicaid, thus helping out their financial standing. Rider fares won’t increase for the foreseeable future.

Comments

Publius

Geeze, what a shock! All those empty busses running all over and they can't make money. Who'da thunk?

Licorice Schtick

The busses often fill up. If the average car on the road is carrying 1.2 people, does that mean we should all drive cars with 1.2 seats?

SPARC is a spark for Erie County's economic development.

SamAdams

$18 MORE PER RIDE??? There's another government waste of money for you! It costs substantially less than that to take a cab -- and you're not at the vagaries of the weather or the mercy of a bus schedule!

If the transit system really could bill as much as $18 more per ride, then either the system is taking advantage of a loophole big enough to drive a bus through, or the system is being run so inefficiently it should be shut down immediately. I'm frankly quite a bit less than impressed with EITHER of those scenarios.

doglegright

Hey Sam,
Makes you wonder how California and Nevada will make High Speed rail work...... Buses and Rapid Trains in Cleveland constantly run around empty....

Dog

SamAdams

The short answer to your question: California and Nevada WON'T make high speed rail work if they determine to run it anything like Amtrak (or SPARC)!

Some public transit systems do quite well (i.e. they're self-supporting). But it requires a population base sufficient to give the system enough passengers on a regular basis, and it requires an extensive area of service to ensure those numbers.

YouMustBeJoking

SamAdams, seeing that these people are picked up at there door, they are in no way shape or form "at the vagaries of the weather", and also since they schedule when they want picked up, they are in no way shape or form at " the mercy of a bus schedule"! Also if they were to take a cab, they would have to pay out of pocket, with the Sandusky Transit, they don't have to pay a dime. Please don't talk crap when you have NO idea of what the hell your talking about. It's obvious you don't use or know anything about the service so why are you commenting on it?

SamAdams

They don't have to pay a dime? Even MORE awesome. They may not have to pay a dime, but SOMEbody does! And guess who that is?

Nemesis

Youmust, your response changes nothing. They could simply pay the cab company to do the job and it would cost the same, except that they wouldn't have all the ancillary costs of funding pensions, etc.

YouMustBeJoking

oh yea I forgot that all of the cabs are wheelchair friendly, The STS transports hundreds of wheelchair bound people every week. Face it the STS is a wonderful service.

GoBigLex2001

Tired of local taxpayers bailing out public transit. Leave the transit to the private taxi companies or SPARC needs to re-evaluate and see which routes are more profitable.

DGMutley

Last I heard it was 50 bucks for a local cab company to pick up someone using a wheelchair.

ohioengineer

Subsidized public transportation is one of the sacred cows of our modern society and therefore will always be with us. The best we can hope for is to try and keep the cash bleeding as small as possible. Advertising is a great start, although I have to wonder why this wasn't employed long ago. How about a contest to come up with other cost-saving ideas?

Nemesis

With such defeatist thinking, nothing will ever change.