Under amended Substitute House Bill 62, which passed the Ohio House of Representative by a vote of 71 to 27, state funding for Ohio’s 61 urban and rural transit systems will rise to $100 million in each of the next two years.
The $200 million allocated in the budget bill represents Ohio’s largest-ever investment in public transportation and reverses a years-long trend that saw the state slip to 38th nationally in support for transit systems.
“Today’s vote was a huge win for SARTA and Ohio’s other transit agencies, and an even bigger, more important victory for the thousands of people here in Stark County and around the state who depend on public transportation to get them where they want and need to go each and every day,” said Kirt Conrad, CEO of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA).
Conrad added that he is unsure how much additional funding SARTA and the other agencies will ultimately receive and that the passage of the House version of the transportation budget is the first stop in what may be a difficult journey to secure the additional funding as the bill now moves to the Senate.
“I hope the overwhelming, bi-partisan vote in the House will send a signal that the time has come for the state to address its infrastructure needs and adequately fund public transportation,” he said.
Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) President/CEO Joanna Pinkerton, who is also chair of the DriveOhio Government Advisory Board, also urged the Ohio Senate to maintain support for public transit in the final transportation budget sent to Gov. Mike DeWine.
“As the process moves to the Senate, we hope state legislative leaders maintain this level of funding,” she said. “Doing so will allow COTA and other mobility partners across the state to implement transportation systems that will better serve our growing senior population, focus on shifting consumer preferences for the newer generations, and ensure access for all.”
If approved, Pinkerton said COTA would use these funds for capital improvements, such as purchasing new alternative fuel buses or upgrading operational facilities and customer amenities.