SORTA Commits to Bus Fare Assistance and Access improvements
On September 30, the SORTA Board adopted a resolution to put a 0.8% county-wide sales tax levy on the ballot next year to fund public transit and infrastructure projects. If adopted, the levy is expected to pave the way for significant service improvements for Cincinnati Metro, including 24-hour service on key bus lines, increased frequency and weekend service, new routes to job centers, and improved crosstown routes. Notably, the resolution includes $500,000 per year for a Transportation Empowerment Fund and a commitment to expand Access service, items that the HSC has led advocacy efforts on over the past 18 months.
HSC’s Transportation Empowerment Fund would provide free or discounted bus passes or other types of ride options to eligible low-income citizens through participating non-profit or government organizations. The proposal is designed to help low income riders overcome financial barriers associated with bus fares and future fare increases.
HSC has also proposed improvements to Metro’s Access program, which provides transportation to riders who are unable to use regular bus service due to a disability. HSC’s recommended Access service improvements include: expanding Access service to all of Hamilton County; providing automated notice to riders 10-15 minutes prior to arrival time through text or phone call; increased on-time performance; reduced ride times; and door to door service upon request. HSC has also requested that SORTA commit to increasing the operating budget of Access by the same percentage that the operating budget for regular bus service is increased (at a minimum). While the resolution did not reference these specific objectives, it did commit to expanding and improving Access service. HSC will continue to work with SORTA to ensure that Access service improvements respond to the needs of riders.