After 18 months of community, employee, and customer engagement, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's (TARTA) updated vision and system redesign was approved by TARTA's Board of Trustees, according to the agency's news release.
The TARTA Next project involved multiple levels of community engagement, including a task force of community stakeholders, surveys for TARTA customers and employees, and 12 public engagement events. The result is a list of proposed service expansions and improvements that stem directly from the needs and travel habits of TARTA customers, the membership of Lucas County in the authority, and TARTA's financial realities.
“In 2021, the voters expressed their support for modernizing TARTA by approving the change of our funding model to a sales tax and expanding our service area," said Laura Koprowski, TARTA CEO. "When they did that, it was with the understanding that we would improve the fleet, technology, and customer experience, and provide everyone in Lucas County with access to public transportation.”
TARTA's evolution will include:
- Microtransit, which will allow public transit options to reach all of Lucas County. Initial microtransit zones will launch in early 2023.
- The extension of fixed route service to Spring Meadows in early 2023 followed by new service for Oregon by 2024.
- The expansion of TARPS coverage area beginning in 2023, in line with TARTA's fixed-route service.
- Simplification and streamlining service of fixed route service, including a new connection between the Junction neighborhood and Uptown Toledo.
- New customer amenities including covered bus shelters, bus stop signs, and connection points throughout the service area to better link to mobility options.
In addition to those changes, the TARTA Next vision calls for a number of long-term improvements over the course of the next five-to-10 years. Those include:
- Developing new connection points to improve customer experience for those who transfer between different TARTA services.
- Increasing special event transportation to festivals, sporting events, and other happenings.
- Purchasing new vehicles including electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses.
- Improving bus stop positioning, signage, and pedestrian access points.
"TARTA's staff has been hard at work in the last couple of years changing the direction of this organization based on what customers have asked for, and it's an exciting thing to be a part of," said Kelsie Hoagland, TARTA Board of Trustees president. "We're eager to put this plan into action and make TARTA easier, more efficient, and more comfortable for all of the people who depend on it."
The microtransit pilot will bring on-demand service, similar to ride-sharing services, to different areas of Lucas County in the next year, according to TARTA. Customers will be able to request rides on accessible vehicles that arrive within 30 to 60 minutes, connecting them from western Lucas County and Rossford to TARTA fixed route vehicles.