Your service is about to get cut. A lot.
Poor AC Transit. They were hoping to prevent, or at least delay for a little longer, service cuts with the passage of November’s Measure VV, but alas, revenues plunged far beyond what anyone was imagining last summer, then the State took away all their operating assistance, and then the MTC decided they’d rather spend stimulus money on a sky-train that nobody will use instead of helping preserve existing jobs and getting people to work now. (An informal survey of Texans taken this weekend, BTW, has concluded that BART’s Oakland Airport Connector project is “really stupid.”)
Anyway, this Wednesday, AC Transit will be holding a public hearing (PDF) to take comment on their intent to declare a fiscal emergency. Fiscal emergency sounds scarier than it really is. Well, the situation is certainly scary, with AC Transit expecting a $9.74 million shortfall in FY09-10, and an even greater shortfall the following year. (FAQ about the agency’s budget problems here (PDF).) But for the Board of Directors to declare a state of fiscal emergency basically just means that they expect to have a shortfall (which we already knew) and exempts them from CEQA as they make whatever adjustments they need to make to close the budget hole. This is a good thing.
Anyway, before they declare the fiscal emergency, they have to take public comment on the idea, and then they have 30 days to respond to those comments at another Board meeting (they’ll do this on June 24th). Anyway, if you want to comment on the proposed fiscal emergency, although I’m not really sure why you would, you can do so at the public hearing this Wednesday, at 5 PM, at the AC Transit Board Meeting (AC Transit Headquarters, 1600 Franklin Street, 2nd floor Board Room).
But if you ride the bus, what you really should do is take the service reduction survey. You’ve probably already heard that we’re talking about service cuts of like 15% – this blows. There’s certainly no way to do it that isn’t really, really painful. But there are different ways of doing it. One approach would be to basically just cut service back an equal amount on every route. This type of approach is favored by people who live near minor bus lines. Another approach would be to cut weekend and evening service down to like, nothing. This approach is favored by people who see the bus system as basically just a commuter service. Finally, there’s the option of cutting minor lines more heavily and protecting service on high volume trunk lines as much as possible. I really don’t know which way the Board leans on any of the three above options, but I’m firmly in the third camp. In lean times, it’s important that we preserve the highest quality service we can afford for the most people. I realize that this totally sucks for people who live in Montclair, but AC Transit needs to be thinking about the future, and how they can best preserve ridership, and how they can best offer a meaningful alternative to commuting by car. You can’t do that by decimating your trunk lines.
Anyway, by taking the survey, you will have an opportunity to help shape the direction the agency takes with this. You will select between options like:
“Buses should operate into neighborhoods and shopping centers, and operate LESS FREQUENTLY” or“Buses should stay on major roadways and operate MORE FREQUENTLY.”
“Buses should run FREQUENTLY during morning and afternoon commute hours, and operate minimal service during the rest of the day” or “Buses should run at MODERATE levels throughout the day.”
“On weekends, AC Transit should operate TRUNK ROUTES ONLY (i.e., major routes), and at the current frequency” or “On weekends, AC Transit should operate ALL SERVICE TYPES at a reduced frequency.”
“AC Transit should focus service on the MAJOR CORRIDORS that serve the most riders” or “AC Transit should focus on providing more coverage in NEIGHBORHOODS.”
Get the picture? These are important choices, and if you are a bus rider, I know you must have an opinion. So please, take the survey!