Models for Success Session Delves into Funding of Ohio’s Transit Systems

July 27th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

As part of the first breakout sessions at the 2016 ODOT Conference held at the Convention Center in Columbus, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Deputy Director Alison Goebel moderated a panel session titled: “Models for Success: Moving Transit Forward in Times of Fiscal Constraint.” After Goebel’s brief comments to frame the session, speakers from Dayton, Cincinnati, and Toledo each discussed the funding models for their respective transit systems and highlighted the current challenges of ensuring that transit is well supported in Ohio. Brandon Policicchio of the Greater Regional Transit Authority, John Deatrick of the City of Cincinnati, and Jim Gee of the Toledo Regional Transit Authority summarized key facts about their area transit systems and described funding opportunities and sources, strategic partners, and innovative services each system provides.

Speakers

Speakers from left: Brandon Policicchio, Jim Gee, Alison Goebel, and John Deatrick

In Ohio, Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) are funded with a variety of local funding sources.  Eight counties utilize a county sales tax of up to 1%. Policicchio noted that Dayton’s RTA benefits over the long term from assurances that that revenue stream will continue, given that the half-cent sales tax does not expire for renewal. A few counties generate the majority of their RTA revenue via non-sales tax means: Toledo Area RTA (TARTA), the Steel Valley, and the Ohio Valley levy a property tax and the Cincinnati area RTA (SORTA) levies an income tax. Interestingly, Deatrick noted that Cincinnati will begin to levy a new parking fee to generate a few million dollars to fund the Streetcar, which will be unveiled in September.

While 27 Ohio counties do not even operate a public transit system, and given that 60 percent of public transit trips are work trips (medical trips are the second most common destination for transit riders), local transit systems would greatly benefit from increased state support. As GOPC has highlighted in recent memos, Ohio’s contribution to transit calculates to 63 cents per capita, which ranks 38th in the nation – in between Mississippi and North Dakota. With federal grant support few and far between, Gee explained that many existing transit authorities must scramble to find creative local ways to ensure their systems continue to serve riders.

Despite the strains facing Ohio’s transit systems, Gee emphasized that there are reasons to be encouraged about transit in Ohio. Firstly, ODOT remains an important player and a key partner in ensuring that transit has a bright future in Ohio. GOPC echoes this support of the state’s role and was encouraged by ODOT’s commission of the 2015 Transit Needs Study. Secondly, baby boomers and millennials simply demand more public transportation and will be a significant voice in this issue. Thirdly, there are already many success stories in Ohio; as Policicchio and Deatrick discussed, Dayton serves over 200,000 annual trips while Cincinnati is implementing exciting mobile technologies such as fare purchasing via smartphone as part of its imminent Streetcar rollout. Moreover, Cleveland was selected to host the recent Republican National Convention in large part due to its robust light rail system and excellent Bus Rapid Transit fleet.

Brandon DaytonJim GeeJohn Deatrick

From left: Policicchio, Gee, and Deatrick

The need for additional state support is clear, however this session highlighted that Ohio’s transit agencies are acting creatively and resourcefully to meet demand for their services. 

 

CMC Forum Explores Urban Revitalization

May 2nd, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended Columbus Metropolitan Club’s panel on the way cities are working to attract and retain talent, and thrive in today’s economy. The session was moderated by OSU History Professor David Staley, who asked questions to Lee Fisher, President of CEO for Cities and Steve Schoeny of the Columbus Department of Development.

Fisher began the session by declaring that in the coming years, urbanization will be the single most important demographic change in the coming years, with many people choosing to move to cities. Today many cities struggle to provide the vehicles to fully use their talent, despite there being plenty of talent available. Attracting new talent, however, can only happen if cities have the tools for people to collaborate. Moreover, Schoeny believes that retaining talent is a big challenge for cities, as many young, educated people will look to move elsewhere. Schoeny emphasized the need to create places that connect housing with jobs, because people often choose to where to live before they decide where to work. This idea reflects GOPC’s support for place-based investment, to build off existing resources, and the idea that players should take advantage of the assets that already exist in Ohio’s cities.

CMC urban revitalization 4.20

Schoeny believes that successful cities share three common features: they are dense, active, and connected. One key ingredient to all of these is having lively public spaces, such as parks and bike paths, where people can meet each other and share ideas. Fisher echoed this sentiment, declaring that active cities have at least 10 public spaces, which ultimately improve our health. Moreover, active communities, according to Schoeny, are incumbent on robust public transportation systems by expanding choices for everyone. GOPC concurs with this assessment and has been working in recent months to boost resources for multimodal transportation options.

GOPC Releases Memos Recommending Strategies to Reform Ohio’s Transportation Policy

March 15th, 2016

GOPC is a leading advocate for policy reforms that will support a diverse and modernized transportation system in Ohio.  To support GOPC’s most recent policy recommendations, GOPC has published a series of research memos that:

  • Analyze Pennsylvania’s 2013 comprehensive budget reform and identifies strategies that Ohio could replicate.  Undertaking a similar reform in Ohio could produce more resources and recalibrated funding to better fund all transportation modes, especially public transportation.
  • Outline the benefits of “flexing” $30 million of Ohio’s federal dollars to public transportation.  Ohio is the 7th most populous state in the country yet ranks 38th in state support of public transportation.  The allocation of existing federal funds to transit could support 370 new rural transit vans or 107 new full size buses per year.  Ohio currently has 275 rural vehicles and 900 urban buses beyond their useful life and 22 rural counties without any transit service.
  • Discuss the benefits of raising the state motor fuel tax, indexing it to inflation and removing, through statewide ballot, the constitutional provisions that restricts the gas tax’s use to highways.  By the Ohio constitution, the state’s gas tax can only be used for highway construction and repairs.  While increasing the gas tax is not a complete  solution, it is a longstanding resource that will remain so for Ohio.

To attract and retain businesses and residents, states across the country are investing in diverse, modern transportation systems that support all modes.  Ohio has a geographic advantage of being within 600 miles of over half of the U.S. and Canadian populations.  To leveraging this prime position, Ohio must invest in transit, bike/ped, rail, deep water ports, airports and highways. GOPC’s memos outline strategies to support and enhance all the modes that make up Ohio’s transportation system.

Click here to for more information and to access the memos.

GOPC Presents on Complete Streets and Active Transportation Policies

February 18th, 2016

The Greater Ohio Policy Center supports the establishment and implementation of a statewide complete streets policy.  Such a policy, also sometimes called an active transportation policy, means that roadways are sensitive to context and designed for all users. Roads with a complete streets treatment have sidewalks (with curb cuts), bike sharrows or lanes, safe and accessible public transportation stops, and traffic calming designs that keep motorists to the posted speed limit.

Currently Ohio does not have a robust statewide complete streets policy, although fifteen local municipalities and four metropolitan planning organizations have passed resolutions or local ordinances in support of complete streets.

For more information, please see GOPC’s recent presentation on the topic:

http://www.slideshare.net/greaterohio/active-transportationcomplete-streets-policies

Despite Some Access to Transit, Ohioans Face Difficulties Commuting to Work

October 30th, 2015

By Torey Hollingsworth, Graduate Intern

As a Master’s student in the City and Regional Planning program at Ohio State, I get to spend even the time I’m not at Greater Ohio thinking about policies and practices that affect Ohio’s urban areas. I also get to spend a lot of time examining our cities’ pasts, which not only helps give a better sense of how we got where we are today, but can also give ideas about where we can go in the future.

As part of a recent assignment, I read the 1954 Comprehensive Plan created for Dayton. There are a number of interesting things in it – early steps toward mass suburbanization, discussions of the routes of the federal highway system through town, and maps outlining areas slated for urban renewal. But one thing struck me more than any other: according to data collected for the plan, less than one percent of people living in the city of Dayton in 1952 lived more than a quarter mile from a transit line. Less than 10 percent of people living in the entire region lived outside of the quarter mile radius from bus or trolley lines as well.

Although exact comparisons to today aren’t available, a Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission report shows that 36.3 percent of Montgomery County residents lived outside of the quarter mile buffer in 2008.[1] When the radius was expanded to three-quarters of a mile as it was in The Brookings Institution’s 2011 Report “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Urban America,” fewer than one percent of city residents and 33 percent of metro residents fell outside of the buffer in 2010.[2]

I expected that transit access would not be nearly as widespread as it was in the 1950s, but these numbers surprised me – the coverage of transit lines has not reduced as significantly as I would have expected since the 1950s. Despite significant growth in the area considered “urban” and dramatic reductions in ridership, the percentage point drop in population living within a reasonable radius of transit lines has been relatively modest.

Dayton streetcar

Dayton in 1959. Photo Courtesy: Dayton History Books Online

What has changed dramatically, however, is how well transit lines are helping people get to work. According to Brookings’ analysis, only 34 percent of jobs in the Dayton area were accessible within 90 minutes on public transportation. Other Ohio cities do not fare better – Columbus and Toledo tie with Dayton at 34 percent, while the other cities trail behind: Cleveland at 29 percent of jobs, Cincinnati at 28 percent, Akron at 25 percent, and Youngstown at just 14 percent.[3] In the 1950s, jobs were concentrated largely in the central business districts, so transit lines running downtown were convenient, easy ways to get to work. Today, jobs are springing up along the peripheries where transit lines are less likely to go.

This quick look back at Ohio’s cities’ historic transit infrastructure underscores the value of mass transportation for economic and workforce development – transit options can be vital for helping workers, especially lower wage ones, access jobs. It is also a good reminder about the need for a number of the policies that GOPC advocate – including smarter and more robust transit options and promoting sustainable development, including new places of employment, in our existing urban centers.

[1] http://docs.mvrpc.org/lrtp/2008/CHAPTERX.pdf

[2] http://brook.gs/1My01GD

[3] http://bit.ly/1KL6eY1

Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:

 

Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future

Coleman-cropped

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

 

2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.

 

Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.

 

Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!

 

 

GOPC Announces Finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards

June 2nd, 2015

GOPC is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards.

Don’t forget to join us for the Awards Ceremony, where winners will be announced, on Wednesday, June 10th from 8am-9am, which will presented as part of GOPC’s Summit: Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. Click here to register now!

The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio. We received nominations from around the state for many worthy contenders; working with an independent advisory committee, three finalists were advanced for each of the four awards.

Public Sector Leader Award

This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Public Sector Leader Finalists:

  • Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery and Preble Counties. He is Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Workforce. He previously served as a member of Tipp City Council, where he was Council President. In addition to his legislative duties, Beagle operates his own small business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Miami University and earned an MBA from Cleveland State University.
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transit Needs Study examined existing transit services and quantified transit changes that might be needed. Looking at travel trends and demographics, ODOT found a rising need for both urban and rural transit and developed short- and long-term strategies to bring the most efficient and cost-effective improvements to transit riders and taxpayers. In addition to the study report itself, ODOT published focused study reports and initiative papers to inform citizens and decision-makers about Ohio’s transit needs and proposed solutions.
  • Mayor Georgine Welo was first elected as mayor of South Euclid in 2003. She has spearheaded innovative community revitalization projects to transform neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosure and vacancy. Under Mayor Welo’s leadership, South Euclid’s Green Neighborhoods Initiative used competitive grant funds and involved design students to remodeling postwar bungalows using green building techniques and universal design features. Vacant lots were transformed with the building of two “idea homes” and the creation of eight community gardens and three pocket parks, all designed to show the potential of South Euclid’s affordable bungalow housing stock and walkable community and to build neighborhood camaraderie. Since the launch of the initiative, South Euclid has attracted over $33 million in private residential investment and has been named a Top 10 Northeast Ohio Community by Keller Williams Realty.

Private Sector Champion Award Read the rest of this entry »

Greater Ohio Summit: Last Call for Award Nominations, Hotel Reservations

May 1st, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center invites you to attend our 2015 Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. This Summit will bring together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders from all sectors to discuss new strategies for transforming Ohio’s cities and regions and for making Ohio economically competitive in the 21st century. Click here to see the Summit agenda.

The discounted room rate at the Westin Columbus is available until May 19, 2015. Click here to register now and make a reservation.


Last Call for Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Award Nominations!

The Awards will recognize public, private, and non-profit sector leaders who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities and regions in Ohio.  TODAY is the deadline for award nominations.  Click here to find out more & send in your nomination.


Interested in Sponsorship Opportunities?

By becoming a sponsor of the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit, your organization will be supporting the seminal statewide Summit in Ohio that brings together national experts with state policymakers and local leaders to highlight ways to transform Ohio’s cities and metros. Sponsors will be featured at the Summit and on promotional materials, and will have exhibit tables throughout the event.

For questions or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Marianne Eppig of Greater Ohio Policy Center (meppig@greaterohio.org or 614-224-0187).

 

GOPC’s Recommended Transportation Policies Signed Into Law

April 2nd, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1st, Governor Kasich signed the state transportation budget bill. This $7 billion budget bill includes two important provisions that GOPC strongly advocated for and that will help lay the foundation for a more diverse and modern transportation system in Ohio. GOPC’s successful policy provisions include:

  1. Performance metrics that allow for comparison of performance across transportation modes. The legislation directs ODOT to use these metrics to assist with statewide strategic planning processes and investment decisions (exact language can be found in Sec. 5501.08 of the transportation budget). With this new language, Ohio will be joining other states, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, in utilizing metrics to guide transportation investment. This provision should help public transportation compete for additional funding.
  2. Joint Legislative Task Force on Transportation Issues. Throughout the legislative process, GOPC championed the creation of a task force that would analyze transportation funding. This Task Force has a broader focus, but must report by December 31, 2016 on the funding needs and recommendations for funding transportation. There is significant bi-partisan support for this Task Force (the exact charges of the Task Force can be found in Sec. 775.40). This Task Force creates an opportunity to further explore funding options for multi-modal and public transit.

GOPC thanks the Legislature for considering these provisions and incorporating them into the final budget that went to the Governor.  Without support from key legislative champions, these provisions would not have been signed into law.

Click here to see the final transportation bill (follow the link for “Transportation and Public Safety Budget FY2016 and FY2017″).

Two GOPC Policy Recommendations Incorporated in Statewide Transportation Budget Bill

February 27th, 2015
The Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Statehouse

Throughout February, Greater Ohio Policy Center has been testifying to the Ohio House of Representatives on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) biennium budget, calling for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

The Ohio House Finance Committee has incorporated two of GOPC’s policy recommendations into the transportation budget bill that passed out of the House Finance committee in late February. As a direct result of GOPC’s testimony and educational efforts, the bill now includes:

Sec. 5501.08. The department of transportation, in order to assist in statewide strategic transportation planning, shall develop metrics that allow the comparison of data across transportation modes and that also incorporate the full spectrum of state strategic transportation goals, including all of the following:

(A)   Anticipated future costs of maintaining infrastructure in acceptable condition, both short-term and long-term;

(B)   Short-term economic impact, one to five years, and long-term economic impact, thirty years and longer;

(C)   Economic impact on a region’s future rate of job growth and job retention;

(D)   Motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian counts, and number of accidents by mode.

Section 755.40. There is hereby created the Joint Legislative Task Force on Department of Transportation Funding. […] The Task Force shall examine the funding needs of the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Task Force also shall study specifically the issue of the effectiveness of the Ohio motor fuel tax in meeting those funding needs. Not later than December 15, 2016, the Task Force shall issue a report containing its findings and recommendations to the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. At that time, the Task Force shall cease to exist.

These provisions will help the state maximize resources and fully leverage the potential of Ohio’s multi-modal transportation system, which is essential to enhancing Ohio’s draw as a place where businesses can thrive and where people want to live.

The bill, Amended Substitute House Bill 53, will be voted on by the House of Representatives in early March. The Ohio Senate will begin hearings in early March and GOPC will be testifying in support of these two provisions, as well as other policy recommendations that could lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

GOPC applauds the House Finance Committee for its contributions to this proposed legislation.