CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Metro laid the foundation stone for a new bus transit center in Oakley on Friday.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority announced plans to invest $ 1.2 million in late 2015 to increase the number of drivers and create more jobs across the city.
Metro spokesman Brandy Jones told WCPO earlier this year that, due to its growing presence as a work and retail hub, Metro was targeting the intersection of Ibsen and Marburg avenues for a transit center.
“We’ve been talking about this for a few years now,” Jones told WCPO. “With all of the developments, we wanted to make sure we had a new transit center that would attract new drivers and serve current customers.”
The transit center, with more than 7,000 workplaces nearby, is just a short walk from Oakley’s 14-screen CineMark cinema and not far from the vast 74-acre Oakley Station, home to the country’s second largest Kroger store opened in 2015.
CONNECTED: Transit Hub hopes to ride Oakley Development Coat-Tails
A 2015 study by the University of Cincinnati Business Center found that Metro is one of the most efficient bus systems among the cities in the comparison, but does not provide access to around 75,000 jobs in the region.
Oakley’s Transit Center is one of three major transit improvement projects in the works for Metro: a new transit hub is planned for the Hamilton Avenue corridor on Northside in Knowlton’s Corner, while for Peeble’s Corner in the heart of Walnut Hills improvements are planned.
The transit center will have four sheltered boarding places and serve five routes – two crosstown routes, two local routes and one express route. Special parking spaces are also provided nearby.
The $ 1.2 million investment is part of the Reinvent Metro initiative launched by SORTA in 2016 to tackle a number of problems that threaten the bus service provider with looming deficit projections in the millions for the next decade.
In 2018 alone, Metro has a $ 3 million deficit – which the city has pledged to cover over two budget cycles. That number will increase over time unless Metro can find a new permanent source of funding.
The SORTA Board of Trustees directed its staff to conduct a 2018 election that will ask voters to approve a new nationwide sales tax levy to provide Metro additional funding. The proposed rate has not yet been established, but it could be between half a cent in sales tax and 1 cent. SORTA assumes that only the 1 cent sales tax would bridge the current budget gap projections.
The new transit center is funded by federal grants that are complemented by local contributions, and transit officials say construction should be completed by next winter.
Pat LaFleur reports on transport and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.