The Dayton Daily News inadvertently spilled the beans on how RTA was a cash cow for certain pet projects of the local power structure.
In an excellent bit of reporting on RTA's budget woes, the DDN reports on what happened to RTA's rainy day fund:
After years of deficit spending, RTA was forced to raise its fares twice in the last three years, for a total increase of 50 percent, Donaghy said. In 2007, the agency combined and eliminated routes and reduced overall service by 12 percent.
Prior to his arrival in 2006, Donaghy said the agency ran through an $80 million to $100 million surplus, primarily through investment in projects like the Schuster Center, Fifth Third Field and Wright Stop Plaza at Third and Main streets.One would have to go back into the press archives to find out for sure, but I think RTA actually spent more than the city of Dayton in subsidizing the Schuster Center, a project (along with 5/3 Field) that had nothing to do with public transit. Wright Stop Plaza was a good idea, though.
The article continues on how Ohio barely spends any state money on public transit (yet another example on how this is the "Alabama of the Midwest"). Yet one has to wonder about what was going on with RTA when they wipe out their cash cushion for projects like the Schuster.
The director at the time was local career bureaucrat Minnie Fells Johnson, who was implicated in a fishy retire-and-then-get-rehired scheme back in the early 2000s (which soundes a lot like double dipping). One can speculate that her strings were being pulled by the local establishment, though.
Past mismangement helped make the current situation worse, but at base is the economic decline of Montgomery County; the article reports revenues from the sales tax used to fund RTA fell by 18%, indicating some hard times here.