August 21, 2014

Elyria
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Avon Lake kills county RTA service

AVON LAKE — RTA service in Lorain County will end Nov. 6 after Avon Lake City Council voted 5-1 Monday night to end the service and not spend the $15,000 budgeted to keep the service for another three months.

“It’s disappointing,” said 4th Ward Councilman David Kos, the lone “yes” vote. “It’s the end of an era.”

The “no” voters focused on the $15,000 that would be spent on a service used by an average of 25 people per day.

After Lorain County pulled out of funding the route less than three weeks ago following almost 10 months of negotiations, Kos and Mayor Karl Zuber scrambled to find ways to keep RTA service alive. They were in talks with Avon to partner up for RTA, which would have meant lower costs for both cities while providing the opportunity to improve service, Kos said.

Kos and Zuber worked to bring supporters to the meeting, as well as RTA chief Joe Calabrese.

“Joe spoke well,” Kos said. “We had residents who spoke eloquently about what the service means to them and the hardship that losing RTA will be. Avon was extremely interested in partnering with us. We put the best package together we could to show why RTA was worth continuing.”

Robert Kurek, who has been riding RTA on and off from Avon Lake to his job in downtown Cleveland for 11 years and daily for 18 months after he got rid of a car, is now figuring out what to do.

“This is pretty significant for me,” he said. “I’ve got just a few weeks to find a new way to get to work.” He’s considering ride-sharing, or somehow getting to RTA’s Park and Ride lot in Westlake.

One suggestion at the meeting, Kos said, was using Avon Lake’s community van service to get people to the Westlake Park and Ride lot. But, Kos pointed out, adding three routes in the morning and three in the afternoon would mean cutting service to the city’s seniors, who depend on the community van to get to medical appointments and grocery stores.

“Also, it would cost $60,000, and the van only seats seven,” he said.

When it came right down to it, Kurek said there just wasn’t the political will to support RTA service.

“The payback seemed small because of such a small number of regular riders,” Kurek said. “In difficult times, support for transit is a hard sell.”

While others at the meeting spoke about getting RTA back at a later date, Kos said that’s unlikely. And, if Lorain County Transit is discontinued in Avon Lake, too, the city will be left without any public transportation.

“Once gas hits $4, $5 again, a lot of people are going to wonder why we let public transportation go so easily,” he said.

Contact Melissa Hebert at 329-7129 or mhebert@chroniclet.com.