By Ken Harvey, Community Transit
Previous blogs have talked about recent Community Transit public meetings held regarding service cuts and fare changes proposed for June 2010.
There were some persons at a few of those meetings who said we were the only transit agency actually cutting service now. I thought it was a remarkable statement worth investigating.
So the other day I went online and googled “transit service cuts”. Up popped the first 10 of about 3,490,000 results on transit service cuts covered in news articles, blogs and documents. And it was pretty clear there’s bad news all over.
San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, New York City, Oakland, Charlotte, LA. You name it. The list of transit agencies showed the same financial realities most of us have at home. Not enough income to continue the same level of outgo. http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=334&articleid=20100301_11_A1_DamonH602640
Here’s my quick read of perhaps a dozen or more stories. Transit agencies all over are between a financial rock and a hard place, despairing on how internal cost-cutting hasn’t been enough and how service cuts and transit layoffs are hurting riders, employees, and the agencies’ mission.
Locally, Kitsap Transit proposed service cuts back in November 2008. And then had to implement two rounds of cuts in 2009, including dropping Sunday service. Worse yet, officials there aren’t sure they’ll have the money to restore Sunday service for another couple of years.
Two weeks ago, the Bellingham Herald had a story about Whatcom Transportation Authority’s tough situation. They are asking voters to vote to increase their local sales tax to help fund transit service. If that ballot effort fails, they have announced they will need to cut service by 14 percent in September. And they would need to make an even larger cut by the end of 2012. They characterize the second cut as a total reorganization of WTA service.
That’s very similar to what Pierce Transit faces. They just implemented a 6% service reduction for their February 2010 service change. They are also proposing a sales tax increase ballot measure to their board which would help them avoid a total transit system resizing. Pierce Transit staff are warning that without new revenue by 2012, they face a drastic cut in service of approximately 57%! http://seattletransitblog.com/2009/06/30/pierce-transit-service-cuts/
Consider the impact to riders and employees if their current bus routes are trimmed from 51 down to an affordable 23! They will have a very busy spring and early summer sharing their set of options with their board of directors and the public.
King County Metro is not immune either. They are one of the largest transit systems on the west coast. And they are facing the same realities. It appears they’ve been successful delaying cuts for now, but the pressures which led to their news release below haven’t gone away.
The story really is the same wherever you look across the nation.
One interesting source which gives a national perspective to the service funding problems facing transit systems is at the Transportation 4 America website. http://t4america.org/transitcuts/
Their map of service cuts is a little out-of-date because of the bad news popping up all over, but it does provide a sense of just how widespread this is.
A few more examples:
Just last week, San Francisco MUNI board members adopted a plan to cut service by 10% for June 2010. That comes on top of service cuts they made last year. http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-02-28/bay-area/17959949_1_transit-system-municipal-transportation-agency-municipal-railway
The nation’s largest transport system, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, just announced a proposal that includes layoffs, fare, bridge and tunnel toll increases and a service cut package that will eliminate service on local and bus routes, reduce subway and commuter, and lay off more than 1,000 workers, from management to union coach operators. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/nyregion/17mta.html
Portland’s Tri-Met has just proposed a service cut and fare increase package that, if adopted, will take effect this September. Among other things, it would entirely eliminate four bus routes, curtail weekend service on some routes and eliminate low-ridership portions of some routes. www.oregonlive.com/.../hundreds_comment_on_trimet_mas.html
Its really sad and frustrating. Transit agencies are in the business of offering transportation options and serving people. So these service cuts really hurt. They hurt the people we love to serve. Those who choose to leave their cars behind to save money, time, frustration or clean the air. And those who depend upon us because they have no car.
Reduced service reflects reduced jobs and job opportunities. So service cuts also hurt our great employees, as well. These are the caring people who work in transit to serve those riders; from coach operators to transit IT staff, road supervisors to bus mechanics, from transit planners to dispatchers, from the staff who answer rider questions over the phone to those who communicate via the web, outreach activities and this blog. And of course, there are others, like those who make sure the bills and transit employees get paid.
That’s why every transit agency I’m aware of, has been working furiously to cut expenses wherever possible. Unfortunately, as you can see on the t4america.org map, it hasn’t been enough.
Please remember that Community Transit is here to serve you. We’re doing our best to weather this storm. We are working to keep the bulk of our service available to help our riders and employees weather theirs.
If the Community Transit Board approves the proposed June 2010 service change, we are also committed to restoring suspended services as soon as financially feasible. Because all storms eventually end.