|In the new TANK plan, Fort Thomas local bus route 11 will be eliminated, leaving the city with no service except a stop at St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas Hospital.|
By Robin Gee
Despite pleas from Fort Thomas city officials and residents, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, or TANK, has announced it will eliminate local Fort Thomas route 11 and alter another route, 16, to end it at St. Elizabeth Hospital, the only stop in Fort Thomas.
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TANK announced this latest redesign last year and has been working with communities to come up with plans in light of ridership data and financial considerations.
No good news for the city
"I am afraid I have no good news for our community regarding the TANK routes adjusted under this new update," City Administrator Ron Dill told council at its June 15 meeting.
He outlined the steps he and other city officials took to try to make the case to keep the Fort Thomas routes intact, meeting with TANK General manager Andrew Aiello and with company planners and finance people. They also appealed to Campbell County Judge Executive Steve Pendery to help them explore alternatives.
"We’ve certainly done out part to project the idea that Fort Thomas shouldn’t be left out of the loop. There were a lot of contributing factors in their decisions. The idea of having TANK go through our community is really important to us, and we indicated that repeatedly to them in writing, and in their forums and in private meetings with them," Dill said.
"It comes down to ridership and comes down to financing for the most part," he explained. "And the ridership numbers in Fort Thomas were not supporting the financing that goes along with it. They are now at the final stage of moving forward and are asking the fiscal courts to budget for their plans. You can see all their info on their website."
Looking at alternatives and next steps
Council member David Cameron asked if alternatives had been discussed, such as partnering with another transportation option such as an Uber-like service.
Dill said those ideas were discussed, and there may be opportunities to partner with other entities in the future. He pointed to a move to combine some routes being eliminated in the Bellevue/Dayton corridor with the Southbank Shuttle. Yet, other alternatives for Fort Thomas have not been proposed.
Mayor Eric Haas said he did feel the company was listening but just could not come up with a solution in light of the low ridership and high costs. "It really is a tough situation. I was impressed with the thoroughness of their investigation and the willingness to listen and to look at alternatives...They did look at other alternatives, but were just not able to find a way to make it happen," Haas said.
Council member Mark Collier asked what next steps could be to appeal. Dill said at this point the plan is going to the county fiscal courts for budget approval, and that would be the final step in the process and the only avenue for appeal.
High employment areas focus of final TANK plan
The TANK redesign final plan proposes creating four bus service types: Frequent Service routes that handle high frequency areas, Neighborhood Service routes that provide community access, Jobs Express scheduled to handle shift changes at major employers and Commute Express services that provide more access during peak commuter time.
Dill noted that many of the changes were centered around areas of employment. For example, due to employment patterns, service has shifted toward Boone County and that county will be asked to pay for that through its fiscal court.