On May 11, Sacramento Regional Transit's board of directors set in motion the machinery required to reduce service levels. The first look at what that machine has wrought will come Monday at the board's executive committee meeting.
The staff operate under ground rules established by the board back on Aug. 29, 2001. Bus routes have to meet certain criteria and those that fall below the standard are subject to remedial action.
Those rules worked well enough during service reductions mapped out in 2006 and 2008, but not this year.
"Using the 2001 Guidelines as the strategy for recommending reductions at this time would affect routes which currently maintain a relatively healthy ridership base, while preserving other routes that have low performance but are within their group averages," the staff explain in an issue paper. "This could leave some areas of higher ridership without access to service."
So instead of taking a chain saw and lopping off whole limbs from the tree of service, and perhaps threatening the tree's survival, the staff has set about with pruning sheers. It is deeply regrettable that any cuts are necessary, but clearly thoughtful pruning is to be preferred to the alternative.
The proposed service cuts have been split into two blocks. The first would take effect Sept. 6. The second in January. Whether the January cuts would be necessary would depend upon the state of the budget in September.
The staff's pruning has targeted for the first round of cuts those low-performing routes where alternative service is available. In addition, reducing service on routes rather than eliminating them and modifying routes to minimize the impact of changes are also guiding the pruning shears.
Even with the use of shears rather than chain saws, the preferred option would cut nearly 10 percent of bus service and displace roughly 40 drivers. An estimated 800,000 annual passengers would be affected.
Here's the proposal. Click to enlarge. Pay attention to the notes.
Eliminating the No. 9 community shuttle on Walnut Avenue in Carmichael and modifying the No. 82 to cover much of that route on every other trip will leave me with hourly bus service since I live inside the area likely to be skipped in order to cover Walnut.
The elimination of the No. 73 in Rancho Cordova will discomfort the wife's already uncomfortable bus to light rail to bus to work and back daily commute. Instead of having a choice of overlapping hourly buses -- in effect a bus every half-hour -- she'll have just one chance each hour to make her connection.
If, in September, it looks like more cuts will be needed, RT may have to pick up that chain saw and whack evening or late night and weekend bus and rail service. Alternatively, or maybe even in addition, the community bus service and the express routes could disappear.
Or maybe the board can break that 50-50 tie and finally start charging for parking. Third time's the charm, as they say.
Here's the full issue paper.