DAYTON — When the COVID crisis hit one year ago, only “essential workers” were permitted to venture out for their jobs each day. That hit public transportation systems hard and left a lasting impact on their bottom line. Bob Ruzinsky, Greater Dayton RTA Deputy Chief Executive officer, said ridership went down 40 percent and to this day it remains below average.
Ruzinsky, who will become the RTA’s new CEO April 1, said financial help from Washington coming in the COVID relief bill signed into law last week will offset some of the bus system’s problems.
“We’ve been struggling. All agencies have been struggling. The CARES Act money was wonderful for a time. We’re starting to see the end of that in Dayton and this will help us buy some extra time,” Ruzinsky said.
According to Ruzinsky, the relief bill contains approximately $20 million for the Dayton area transportation systems, which include the RTA and agencies in Greene and Miami County. Clark County’s transportation funding is figured separately.
In an interview with News Center 7, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said bus systems nationwide are in serious need of financial help.
“Some were going to have to cut more routes, lay people off and the American Rescue Plan has the support for those agencies,” Buttigieg said.
Next Tuesday President Joe Biden will make a trip to Columbus to promote the Rescue Plan and what it means for local communities in Ohio. Buttigieg said it is a broad approach to widespread problems.
“This is about saving jobs, getting checks to families, getting shots into arms and does a lot of other good things too,” Buttigieg said.
Meanwhile , Ruzinsky said transportation systems in many communities are doing their part to help with the vaccination effort. The RTA, for example, is providing free rides for people to vaccination sites, including to downtown Dayton and the Dayton Convention Center vaccine clinic operated by the Public Health Dayton / Montgomery County.