The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) wants parents to know that they are not alone if they are uncertain about bus service in the Toledo Public School District when school starts on August 26.
To help reduce a multi-million dollar budget deficit, the Toledo Board of Education reduced its transit service to state-mandated minimums, including the elimination of bus transportation for all high school students and any student in grades K-8 who lives less than two miles from the school they attend.
“TARTA plans to have additional buses available at key locations throughout the city that can be pressed into service, when it detects heavy usage on a given fixed-line route,” said James K. Gee, TARTA’s general manager. “With the radical change to its busing policy instituted by Toledo Public Schools, TARTA is not sure exactly what to expect during the initial days of this school year.”
The Toledo Public School System (TPS) will pay for transportation on TARTA for those who qualify in grades K-8, and will issue special passes.
Previously, TPS had paid TARTA for service during school hours at no cost to students, and had provided some yellow bus service. TARTA also previously operated special routes with buses picking up and dropping off students at school.
“Between the yellow bus service and TARTA, that’s how most of the kids got to school,” said James Calhoun, a spokesman for TARTA. “Now, because they are several million dollars in debt, one of the things that got cut is bus transportation.”
Now, the only designated school routes will be those carrying students from grades K-8 who live two miles or more from the school they attend.
High school students in parochial and charter school, who had been covered under the previous TPS contract, will also be excluded from bus service, but students in grades K-8 will get school-paid TARTA service if they live two miles or more from the school they attend.
Currently, all high school students and students in grades K-8 who live less than two miles from the school they attend and who ride TARTA to school will pay the regular fare and will ride existing routes.
TARTA fares are $1 per ride for all passengers, except children under six-years-old, and seniors. TARTA discontinued transfers in 2008. As a result, if a student is required to ride two separate buses to get either to or from school, the total cost for a one-way ride will be $2.
Weekly passes cost $10, and monthly passes, $40.
“We are aware TPS is continuing to search for ways to help reduce the cost of school transportation,” said Gee. “For our part, TARTA is urging parents to buy weekly or monthly passes for their students,. The passes are the most economical way to use TARTA to get to school, and either pass is good for unlimited rides through the week, not just during school hours.”
TARTA is reviewing the use of credit cards to pay for passes through its website, www.tarta.com, or in person at its headquarters, 1127 W. Central Avenue, Toledo. TARTA hopes to begin accepting credit cards for passes in the near future.
A list of locations currently selling TARTA passes can be found at www.tarta.com/fares-passes/.
Gee said TARTA’s contract with TPS has shrunk from 270 hours a day last spring to 76 hour a day this year. “Financially, that is the equivalent of approximately $2 million less in revenue than last school year,” he said.
Calhoun said the changes are indefinite.
The district hopes to restore some of the busing service by using some stimulus funds that will be coming to the schools as the result of recent federal legislation, though it remains unclear if it can be used for transportation, Calhoun told The Press.
“It will be a month or more into the school year before it’s known how much money Toledo might get, and how it will be used,” said Calhoun.
A list of some of the Toledo schools and the TARTA routes that service these schools can be found online at www.tarta.com/bus-routes/schools/.
For more information on which bus route will take a specific student to school, call TARTA at 419-243-7433 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.