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RTA loses money, CEO still get paid big bucks.

Reward without risk. That’s the secret to being CEO of a fortune 500 company in America. Apparently, the same thinking applies to being the CEO of RTA in Dayton:

A five-year contract with no pay increase was approved Tuesday, June 2, for Greater Dayton RTA Executive Director Mark Donaghy.

Trustees cited RTA’s continuing financial problems and complimented Donaghy’s willingness to forgo a raise. Last year’s 4 percent raise and a bonus put his total earnings at $183,034.

The new five-year contract also includes no bonus provisions, so his salary will remain at the base pay of $166,546, board President Bryan Bucklew said.

That is a 9 percent decrease from Donaghy’s 2008 earnings and he also will get no raise in this final year of his current contract, which expires at year’s end.

via RTA exec gets new contract without raise [1].

Sure, Mr. Donaghy is a steal when compared to his overpaid and incompetent predecessor, Minnie Fells Johnson, however, to be paid more than the Deb Feldman at the County and Dayton City Manager Rashad Young- who both oversee bigger budgets, is a farce. Finding out some drivers are making almost $100k [2] thanks to overtime also says someone isn’t watching his budget very well- you could hire 2 drivers for that pay.

We’ve seen a new slogan, new paint, new buses, a new transit station that is behind schedule and a cutting of service and raising fares. This doesn’t sound like what the second highest paid official in the County should be rewarded for. (The highest paid is Dr. Steven Johnson of Sinclair- the one place where the dollars still seem to buy a great value around here).

Considering that Donaghy fired the woman who had successfully sold ads on the buses for years- bringing in private money to subsidize the service, and his replacement contractor has failed miserably, what exactly does he do that makes him so exemplary?

I’ve tired to talk to him about using the bcycle access card for fares on the buses- to which I get a big “I dunno” if the technology is possible.

Sure, Mark is a nice guy, but, when we’re all tightening our belts and asking unions to take cuts, just agreeing not to take a raise isn’t setting a very good example. Taking an $18K/10% cut wouldn’t kill him- and would cut the cost of the DPS bus pass raise in half (if memory serves, it was an extra $36K or so).

The raising of fares 2x in the last year was the last thing we need to do in these tough economic times. Considering bigger systems in Cleveland and Columbus both pay less, maybe it’s time to see if we can make a trade?

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Drexel Dave Sparks

Did not our leaders ever read Socrate’s defense before the Athenian court?

David Lauri

Did you know that Bloomberg is calling for free rides on crosstown buses in NYC (although, as mayor, buses don’t fall under his purview)?  I read about that on nytimes.com, and a commenter suggested, seriously, I think, that all buses should be free and funded solely from taxes.  His reasoning was that doing so would encourage the use of mass transportation and also would help out the average guy.

I wonder what you and your buddy Mr. Leitzell think of that idea, David E.  Given how much you like the cash for clunkers program, since it benefits average folks instead of already rich people and since it helps to reduce dependence on foreign oil, the idea of free bus rides might be one you could get on board with.

David Lauri

Thinking more about this, I did some googling and found that only 15% of the RTA’s budget comes from fares — http://www.greaterdaytonrta.org/OnBoard/OnBoard%20JUNE%2009web.pdf

It really could make sense, instead of increasing fares and thus perhaps reducing demand for RTA’s services, to eliminate fares altogether and make corresponding adjustments to compensate.  Jeff has posted on his blog (from which he is now retired :( ) about how RTA could better focus its routes.  Getting some public outcry about salaries could provide the leverage to adjust them accordingly.


Here’s what would inspire me to ride RTA more often:

1) Routes that go in straight lines that resemble how people go in automobiles, rather than routes that snake around senselessly.  There is no reason why a person who wants to travel Wilmington should have to detour over to Brown Street, for example–it only make the travel time longer and the routes more confusing.

2) Buses that run on time.  I was amazed, after Citifolk, to get on a bus that was supposed to depart from Courthouse Square at 11:15–it arrived at 11:19–and then sat until 11:45 because “we don’t leave until all the buses get here”…I appreciate not wanting to leave transfer passengers behind after midnight but that should be accomodated on the final run of the night, not on all of them.

3)  Free transfers.  My fare should get me to any stop on any route.

I’m fairly confident I could do a better job of running a bus system than these kahunas.

Civil Servants are People, too

I think Dayton RTA offered free rides downtown for a while, if you stayed within the central business district.   So you could hop from the Courthouse to Oregon District for lunch, for example.   That would be cool to see again, especially if they could run a trolley bus like they do for Urban Nights.


Jeff has posted on his blog about how RTA could better focus its routes.

Those blog posts were an experiment in mapping combined with an indirect ironic commentary on the racist and classist attitudes of RTA opponents.

RTA is being seeing less as a transit option and more as a social service.  And suburbanites don’t like paying for a social service, especially one that brings blacks into their suburbs, since people think blacks = crime. 


I’m the first to admit that I don’t ride the bus because of the other bus riders -no matter what their color. I remember the Salem Mall before the RTA went out there, and remember what it was like afterwards. Thugs – and parents of the littler thugs – thought it was a hangout and a cheap babysitter. In the late 90’s I briefly tried riding the RTA from my (then) Englewood home to work downtown. That lasted 2 days. The morning ride was fine, the ride home – not so much.

It’s the same reason I refuse to go to the Vandalia/Butler Twp. WalMart after 5 PM; the shift to the N. Dixie-area crackhead crowd is more than I can stand.


I understand giving up on Daytonology (again)

Again?  I’ve been averaging a post a week since I started.
But enough about blogging, back to the topic, which is actually pretty serious.
The DDN is doing some excellent reporting on the RTA.  They did it by actually posting the usage rates and numbers for the lines, and they did it again with these  pay issues.  One thing to note is that RTA drivers make around $47K/year, which is the higher end of what truckers make, so its not an outlandish yearly salary.  The issue is the overtime.  The question really should be is if RTA is actually saving money by paying a lot of overtime vs hiring more help.  Because hiring more drivers means additional pension and benefits costs, which are avoided if existing drivers are willing to work a lot of overtime.   There isn’t enough info to say either way, but its something to consider when considering hiring more help.

Allison made some good comments about RTA becoming the main mode of transport for the local underclass.  This is why there is no way up for the system.  They will be lose if they ask for a tax increase, so are locked into a downward spiral of service cuts and higher fares, with only people who have to use the system using it.
And the comment about the the Vandalia Walmart was really interesting, considering that it seems the line north to Vandalia is the heaviest used suburban line.


Overtime that doubles the driver’s annual base pay almost certainly means that these drivers are operating in violation of the Hours of Service Regulations (Ohio has adopted the federal HOS regulations for intrastate commercial drivers). Fatigued drivers are a valid safety concern, and it appears we may have a lot of them driving big buses around town.