City still fighting bus route reductions

Some changes made, more sought ahead of Wednesday’s TANK vote
COVINGTON, Ky. - A day before the board overseeing public bus service in Northern Kentucky votes on drastic changes to routes, City of Covington officials continue fighting to maintain transportation options for its vulnerable populations.
City Manager David Johnston sent a letter to TANK (Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky) officials today that - while thanking them for reining back several proposed reductions under the 2020 System Redesign Plan - urged them to make at least one more, and preferably three, changes.
Specifically, the City strongly wants TANK’s board to restore the 0.4-mile-long leg of route #5 Holman Ave/Fort Wright that lets residents in low-income neighborhoods travel directly to St. Elizabeth Covington hospital.
The City also objects to two other proposals: the removal of low-volume neighborhood routes, and the increased requirement that Covington riders travel to Cincinnati for transfers that access destinations like Northern Kentucky University and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“The coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide focus on racial disparity have brought into clear focus the need to maintain a comprehensive public transportation system that connects all communities to critical health-care services and economic opportunities,” said Covington Assistant City Manager Bruce Applegate, the City’s point person on the TANK plan.
“TANK officials have been working with us for months in a collaborative way, but the City isn’t satisfied that the proposed new system fully serves our residents,” he said.
The City learned Friday that TANK’s board will meet via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The virtual meeting will be broadcast live on TANK’s Facebook page, and TANK officials said public comment will be received through the Facebook comments section and relayed to the Board. 
The notice can be found on TANK’s website HERE.

Applegate said that the City recognizes that many of the proposals that reduce service in the 2020 plan are a function of TANK’s tight budget, a big portion of which comes from Kenton, Campbell and Boone county governments. TANK said the three fiscal courts are indirectly weighing in on the TANK redesign through the agency’s annual funding request.
“Ultimately, Covington residents and businesses who are concerned about the reduction in bus service should contact members of the three fiscal courts,” Applegate said. “I know county officials have expressed concern about the pandemic and have expressed commitment to racial justice and economic fairness, and we would hope they would be receptive to the need to fund a public transportation service that is loyal to those principles.”
At the City’s request, TANK officials held two public hearings in early February at which they heard hours of impassioned pleas from residents to keep routes in Covington that were proposed to be eliminated in the 2020 System Redesign.
The updated plan released last week restores the so-called #8 Eastern Avenue bus route serving the Eastside, Helentown, and Austinburg neighborhoods and improves connections to Fidelity Investments (Covington’s largest employer), the Crestview Hills shopping center, and St. Elizabeth Edgewood.
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