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Bus service cuts could stall

Submitted by on 1, October 14, 2009 – 5:45 amNo Comment

4-300x198Top brass at AC Transit is planning to ask the bus service’s board to hold off on service cuts they proposed to close a multimillion-dollar budget hole, because they say money could be available to pay for some of the service.

AC Transit’s board was scheduled to consider the cuts when they meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday. But their top staff said they think money that was to be used for a bus rapid transit project on East 14th Street/International Boulevard and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland can be shifted toward operating expenses, which could defray some of the cuts.

They are also waiting to see how the success of a lawsuit challenging the state’s taking of $1.19 million in funds designated for transit will impact their bottom line. Staff wrote in their report on this one that they hope to get more clarity on their finances in a meeting with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that was scheduled for Tuesday.

Even so, AC Transit staff envision forwarding some form of their “Service Adjustments Plan” to the board for eventual approval.

Some local residents spoke out against the plan, which they feared could make it tougher for some local seniors to get around and for students to get to local high schools. But others praised AC Transit’s staff for its careful work, saying the plan trimmed low-traffic lines and added service in places where it was needed more.

The current draft of the plan, which was anticipated to go into effect on January 10, 2010, would save the transit agency an estimated $18 million. Without it, agency staff anticipate additional costs of $4 million.

Staff is asking the board to wait two weeks, until October 28, to make a decision on the plan. They are hoping for a final decision on the plan in December, for a March 2010 rollout.

On a (slightly) side note, our local rep on the AC Transit board, Elsa Ortiz, is asking her fellow board members to resolve to buy American, and to buy in California as much as possible.

The transit agency has faced fire from folks who were none too happy about their purchase of buses from Belgian maker Van Hool (or as one e-mailer to the transit agency called them, Van Hell), both for what they felt were the expense of the buses and a whole host of other things.

The proposed resolution has drawn cheers from local transit-watchers, including the head of Gillig, a Hayward-based bus maker.

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