By Michelle Everhart and Mark Gokavi www.daytondailynews.com
The Beavercreek city council on Monday night unanimously rejected the Greater Dayton RTA’s application for three bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard near the Mall at Fairfield Commons making some residents happy while others claimed discrimination.
The vote was 6-0 against approval of the applications. Council member Julie Vann, who had voiced support for the application, did not attend. She was excused with no comment given.
Before the vote in a packed city council chambers filled with those for and against the stops, each of the attending council members cited the reasons for their opinion, drawing applause.
Council members pointed out that the vast majority of Beavercreek city residents who contacted the council were against the RTA stops as well as a lack of sufficient ridership studies. They also cited problems that they say occur at malls with bus stops and RTA’s wish for fixed routes instead of flexible ones. Greene CATS system provides rides on demand in Greene County, and that was another reason given for the rejection of the applications.
RTA officials, who were seeking to run about six buses per day to the stops, expressed disappointment and had not decided on their next move.
“We complied with every request,” said RTA Executive Director Mark Donaghy. “We answered every question, even the ones that we weren’t certain deserved an answer. But we did that and we were polite about it. We fully complied with the ordinance, and that was our understanding from the beginning.”
Council members and RTA officials said the process became contentious, with Beavercreek residents adamant they don’t want the stops and other groups charging discrimination.
“To me, this is about three bus stops,” said council member Vickie Giambrone, who used to work for the RTA. “This isn’t about race. It isn’t about any of those things. It’s about three bus stops.”
The city had asked for answers to another page of issues beyond what was asked for in the transit stop ordinance. The RTA provided an answer to everything on the list, but even the process of the extra questions was debated. “The answers didn’t satisfy what the city needed,” Vice Mayor Brian Jarvis said.
The RTA found some issues included on the additional list to be excessive.
“I would say the word should be ‘reasonable’ modifications,” said Frank Ecklar, the RTA’s director of planning and marketing. “I think 18 inches of concrete (base), closed-circuit television cameras in shelters and air conditioning in open-air bus stops, I don’t think that’s consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.”
Jarvis agreed that the heating and air conditioning questions about open-air shelters were absurd.
“We’ve only found one air-conditioned bus shelter on the planet and that’s in Dubai,” Donaghy said.
Jarvis and Giambrone both said their main issue was the fixed stop request and insufficient answers from the RTA. Council members pointed to current on-demand RTA service and Greene CATS as options for those who want to use public transportation.
RTA officials said residents must qualify for some of those services and that Greene CATS routes require calling ahead, which doesn’t fit with those not on a fixed schedule.
Multiple council members brought up safety concerns as a issue. Donaghy said he spoke to Jarvis about that concern and about the impact on businesses.
“Go to the Shops of Oakwood. Go out to Centerville. Go to Englewood. We go to retail establishments all over this community,” Donaghy said.
“There’s no crime wave in Oakwood. We’re there every day. We’re there 21 hours a day.”
Residents who spoke at the meeting represented both sides, with one man saying he appreciated the council following the city’s wishes and another saying this process showed thinly veiled discrimination.
For now, the RTA will go back to the drawing board after a process that began more than a year ago.
Donaghy said legal action is a possibility. “We haven’t made that list at this time, but certainly that’s an option.”