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Ohio Transit Riders Dumped by the Side of the Road

Earlier this year, Lorain County, Ohio, purchased 13 new buses for its transit service using federal stimulus money. Come January 1, those buses are going to be sitting idle.

mj1973318.jpgRide it while you can: bus service in Lorain County, Ohio (Photo: Morning Journal/Kelly Metz)
The county will be canceling all transit service effective December 31, after voters rejected a half-percent increase in the sales tax that would have gone in part to fund operations. The county's share of operating costs is about $500,000 per year, and officials say they simply don't have the cash. The service, which carries some 40,000 riders per month, isn't mandated, and so it's headed for the chopping block.

Some 50 or 60 drivers and maintenance staff will be out of work. Add to that hundreds more who won't be able to reach the jobs they've managed to hang onto in the state's battered economy.

And for disabled, elderly and carless people in the area, the transit service is essential. From a report on WKYC.com:

"Come New Year's Day, I'll just have to ride my wheelchair in the middle of the road," said Mike Osbourne, who has ridden the Lorain County buses several times a week for years.

"When the flakes start flying and nobody shovels their sidewalks in the area, if the roads get plowed, that's what I'll do," Osbourne predicted.

Many patrons of Lorain County Transit have a disability or are older. A large number are students and some, like Rose Ferguson, can't drive. She is legally blind.

"I'll lose my job," Ferguson stated matter-of-factly. She depends on several buses a day to get to and from her job at an Elyria WalMart.

"Without the bus, I don't have a job next month," she says. "We have to save these buses."

Meanwhile, in Washington, there's talk of more infrastructure spending to create jobs. Bus routes that get people to work every day don't figure in to their calculations.

The situation in Lorain County is part of what advocates are calling a larger "mobility crisis" in that state, as Streetsblog Network member Urban Cincy reports. Intercity transit connections in Ohio are being severed at an alarming rate:

According to All Aboard Ohio, these decreases in service are leaving many Ohioans stranded as they look for travel connections between Ohio’s many cities, towns, suburbs, and rural hamlets.

“Ohio is facing a serious mobility crisis,” said Bill Hutchison, president of All Aboard Ohio. “Ohio’s public officials and transportation company executives need to recognize a problem exists and start working together to address the lack of travel options.”

Big thanks to Cheri Campbell (@olevia) for the tip on the situation in Lorain County.