August 21, 2014

Elyria
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County officials warn of 300 jobs will be lost if transit services are cut

ELYRIA — The Lorain County Employment Network — a coalition of local job agencies and organizations — estimates about 300 people could lose their jobs if all of the fixed routes of Lorain County Transit are eliminated by the end of December, according to county Commissioner Ted Kalo.

Callers complaining about the cutbacks were still flooding county switchboards on Thursday, two days after the county notified Cincinnati-based First Transit Inc. that bus service would be eliminated effective Dec. 31.

The move will save about $500,000 — the county’s share of operating the transit service.

But federal and state dollars paid for the bulk of the $5-million-per-year service and those dollars will be lost, along with the livelihood of about 40 bus drivers, County Administrator James Cordes said.

During Thursday’s meeting of the county commissioners, discussion focused on what will happen to the 13 new buses the county purchased earlier this year with $712,000 in federal stimulus money.

Cordes said he and the Assistant County Administrator Ron Twining are concerned the Federal Transportation Administration might intervene if the county mothballs the buses.

“They could very well order us to transfer or sell those buses to another transit system,” Cordes said.

Cordes said the county plans to finish using some $4 million in federal stimulus money to renovate the old train depot in Elyria, and that facility could be mothballed, too.

“We still may move over there,” Cordes said. “There’s no sense in stopping that project in the middle of it.”

Another option is to lease the train station to First Transit, which operates other bus services in Lorain County, Cordes said.

At the same time the county announced it was cutting LCT, it announced it was ending its relationship with Greyhound, which means the buses no longer will stop outside Transit’s Third Street offices in Elyria.

When county officials conceived the train station project, they envisioned a transportation hub involving LCT and Greyhound using the renovated building on East Avenue, just north of Broad Street.

Over the summer, the federal government allowed some $400,000 of the train station renovation money to be transferred to transit operations, but Sunday bus service was still eliminated.

Meanwhile, there could be hope on the horizon for cash-strapped transit systems all over the United States, according to an aide to U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township.

As the co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Job Creation, Sutton is working to put together a jobs bill which would include funding for mass transit, according to Sutton’s chief of staff, Nichole Francis Reynolds.

“It is unfortunate news to hear that all of Lorain County Transit’s fixed bus routes will soon come to an end,” Reynolds said. “Such services are vital for many constituents, especially seniors and those who utilize and rely upon LCT to get to work and everyday needs.”

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.