There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The cuts to come -- Will Sunday service, free parking end?

The final deal that state lawmakers forged the other day is slightly -- only very slightly -- better for transit agencies, but it won't stop the bleeding. Sacramento Regional Transit has begun talking to unions about mandatory furloughs and the end of Sunday service. On Monday, the RT board will consider ending free parking at RT park-and-ride lots.

Transit agencies normally receive quarterly payments from the state. Last year, these State Transit Assistance funds amounted to $306 million, which were the paltry leftovers after $1.8 billion in transit-dedicated funding available for 2008-09 was raided to patch other holes in the state general fund. Sacramento Regional Transit's share of that pie: $5.6 million.

The budget adopted back in September included a 75 percent cut in the STA funds. Essentially, the agencies could keep what they got in the first quarter, but nothing for the remainder of the year.

Under the new budget, transit agencies will receive their second-quarter payments -- about $77 million -- but the third- and fourth-quarter are eliminated. Next year, the agencies will get nothing. The entire STA fund has been zeroed out.

Back when the governor first proposed that the STA funding be eliminated, RT General Manager Mike Wiley said in a press release, "If this proposal is approved by the Legislature and the STA funding is eliminated, the result will be an additional $5.6 million hit to RT's current budget and a 16 percent reduction in RT's annual operating budget going forward. RT will be forced to cut productive bus and light rail service at a time when people are turning to transit more than ever before."

RT has already been pushed to the wall by the state and forced to respond with a large fare hike this year.

"During the past two years," Wiley said, "the Legislature and the Governor have diverted nearly $3 billion in transit funds to address the state budget shortfall, which in turn has impacted RT's ability to provide the necessary service to our growing region."

According to one insider, RT has already begun talking to its unions about cuts being planned. This morning, this comment was posted on this blog:

MCEG staff were told last Friday that furloughs and decreased benefits will begin early March and continue through 2010.

AEA employees will endure the same furloughs and cut in benefits - but have not been told as of yet. No amount of secrecy will turn the tide in this situation.

ATU & IBEW employees are under furlough consideration but no plan has been announced. Speculators assume loss of service one day per week - possibly Sundays?
A request for comment from RT's press office failed to generate a response.

Alane Masui, Assistant General Manager of Marketing and Communications Sacramento Regional Transit District, replies:
For FY 2009, the state has already taken $18.3 million from RT and we expect an additional $3.9 million reduction. With projections of continued declines in sales tax revenue and the elimination of State Transit Assistance funds (FY 2010 - 2013), RT is facing a potential budget deficit for FY 2010. RT is working with management and administrative employees to identify cost containment measures and find ways to control labor-related costs.

Regarding MCEG and AEA employees, there are ongoing discussions.

Regarding ATU and IBEW employees, there are no plans for furloughs.

Regarding service, there are no plans for reductions. RT does not want to cut service and reductions would be the last option that would be considered
The agenda for Monday's RT board meeting includes these items:

14. Information: Mid-Year Status Report on Operating Revenues and Expenditures with Projects to Year-End; FY 2010 Revenue Outlook; and Further Re-Balancing Strategies for FY 2009 (Brookshire)

15. Information: Charging for Parking at Light Rail Park and Ride Lots (Mattos)

16. Resolution: Establishing a Schedule of Fees and Charges (Mattos)
The board last year vetoed the idea of charging for parking, but that was before the state action. Now it appears far more likely that the board will be forced to acquiesce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If they charge for parking, that's not going to solve anything. All that's going to do is make people park on the street or in a nearby office building/shopping center. (That's what I do at BART stations and the Reno airport.)

- Jim U