AC Transit cuts less drastic than originally planned
on December 1, 2009
Seated in a second floor boardroom in AC Transit’s downtown Oakland headquarters, Joseph Rux pursed his lips in thought, pausing as he filled out a comment card provided by AC Transit officials. Having already written a few lines detailing his concerns with a looming cut in East Bay bus services, Rux explained the reduction’s significance to him.
“I’m very concerned about the 72 being changed,” he said. “I’m going to lose the quickest route I usually use to get to my house.”
Rux was one of a few dozen attendees at the Tuesday evening meeting called by AC Transit to shed more light for riders on some good and bad news. The good: A reshuffling of funds within the agency should mitigate the impact of a planned 15 percent service reduction. The bad: Patrons can still expect a service reduction of just over 8 percent in March, 2010. North Oakland lines slated to be affected by the 8 percent cut include the 12, 51, and 57.
“Is it perfect? No it’s not,” said AC Transit Manager of Service and Operations Planning Cory LaVigne. “At the end of the day, even though we’re bringing services back, there is still going to be an 8 percent cut.”
Faced with a sizeable budget deficit, this fall AC Transit officials announced a proposal to reduce service by 15 percent, with some lines being eliminated altogether. At a series of public meetings after the proposal, many riders expressed grave misgivings about losing their primary transportation option. In response, a plan was hatched within AC Transit management to decrease the cuts, LaVigne said.
The agency is currently working on a $234 million capital project called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), designed to upgrade and streamline bus service from downtown Berkeley through north, downtown, and east Oakland, all the way to downtown San Leandro. Part of the project, LaVigne said, was $35 million in federal funding that, while slated for BRT, could also be used for operational costs. “Based on demand and pain” resulting from the proposed 15 percent system-wide service reduction, LaVigne said, it was decided to divert the $35 million to help with operational costs and lessen some of the cuts in service. The additional money, LaVigne said, should limit service reductions for the next three years, although BRT “now has a funding gap.”
The AC Transit Board of Directors will officially consider the change in strategy at their December 16 meeting, though it is expected to pass easily. The changes are slated to take effect on March 22.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting, AC Transit officials made a visible effort to keep the mood friendly and upbeat despite riders’ concerns over service reductions, and the gathering had a decidedly civil tone. AC Transit officials offered cookies at the meeting room door and free ride tickets for completed comment cards. After brief opening remarks by LeVigne, attendees were invited to peruse a series of wall-mounted maps showing bus routes and service cuts, while directing any route-specific questions to one of the cadre of agency planners dispersed throughout the room.
As riders studied the maps, tracing routes with their fingers and trying to figure out what the eight percent service reduction will do to their routines, a middle-aged woman who declined to give her name sat in a padded seat, intently scribbling on a comment card. She, her husband, and their three kids all ride the 67 regularly, she said. The line was spared from being cut after originally being set for elimination altogether, though under the new plan it will run less frequently than it currently does. “We personally need it,” she said. “We need the bus. To get to school, to work, to an activity.”
While disappointed and concerned that the line her family depends on will come around less often, she admitted that there is no easy answer to the question of which lines to cut and which to maintain for a financially hurting public transit agency in a cash-strapped state.
“I don’t have some great solution to the problem,” she said. “I know everyone’s having financial problems. I don’t have any great solution.”
Want to see how the service reduction will affect you? Click here.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.