A citizen group's work and plan could get a revamp of the ailing Metro system off the ground

WCPOPublished: November 15, 2017
Published: November 15, 2017

Fresh off his re-election, Mayor John Cranley has pledged to revamp the region's ailing bus system during his second term. How and when he plans to do so remains unclear, but a group of transit advocates are hoping their recently released plan will accelerate the timeline. "We're gonna force this conversation," said Cam Hardy, president of the Better Bus Coalition. "We do wish the mayor would embrace us a little bit more than he has, but hopefully he comes around and sees that we mean business and work together." Using detailed route maps and census data, the Hamilton County Better Bus Plan outlines the group's wishlist for Metro service in the region, including more neighborhood transit hubs, additional crosstown routes and several bus-rapid-transit lines. The plan assumes that Hamilton County voters pass a 0.75-cent sales tax levy next year. While there will be a levy, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has not indicated the specific amount because the state recently changed its tax code to allow for levies in 0.01 cent increments, rather than quarter-cent intervals. What is clear, however, is that SORTA desperately needs an alternative source of funding. Staying with the 0.3 percent city earnings tax will lead to fare hikes, route slashing and a $20 million budget deficit over the next five years. While the Better Bus Coalition is not affiliated with SORTA, Hardy believes their advocacy can help drum up support in the region. "We were pushing for a levy, and we were like, we need to come up with some kind of plan because SORTA ain't got no plan, politicians ain't got no plan, nobody ain't got no plan, and here we are talking about a levy," he said. "The public ain't gonna go for that." The plan's main architect is Mark Samaan. Currently finishing up his master's in planning at the University of Cincinnati, Samaan says he and his team spent over 300 hours on the document.

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