Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A cover for bus cuts?

On the December issue of VTA Take One newsletter (apparently it is not available online, but available on the bus), there's a short article about VTA's "Annual Transit Service Plan":

VTA will present its proposed Annual Transit Service Plan to the public in January 2009 at several public meetings throughout Santa Clara County. The purpose of these meetings is to introduce our initial transit service proposal to our riders as well as to obtain public input to ensure that we develop and implement the best service plan possible.

The transit service plan is developed to improve future efficiencies and ensure VTA meets service demands. From January through March 2009, VTA staff will host public meetings and gather recommendations and comments from the public. The revised plan, based on service analysis and public input will be presented to VTA committees and the board of directors. If approved, the proposed Transit Service Plan will be implemented in July 2009.

By law, VTA is required to obtain public input when it proposes significant changes to the bus system. For the past few years, other than the COA, VTA only held public meetings on route changes when it planned for opening of new light rail lines and when it planned for service cuts.

As we all know, there's nothing on the pipe in terms of new rail lines opening. However, there are strong indications that VTA will receive less revenue from local taxes and from the state next year. Unfortunately Measure B only makes the situation worse.

Although VTA has seen ridership increases throughout this year, it is still not clear how much of the ridership increases came from the new service plan or just because of high gas prices. We should have a better picture soon since gas prices have come down tremendously. Despite the ridership increases, there's a report that the farebox recovery rate has actually worsened. VTA spent two years in developing the COA before the plan was released to the public last year. VTA should not have to make major changes again if COA actually fulfilled its original promise.

Proposing major bus changes soon is not a good sign for transit riders in any way. It is likely that areas with less service today will get even less service. Given the tight budgetary situation and misguided VTA priorities, will service be "reinvested" in other areas, or just be eliminated altogether?

No comments: