AC Transit to Decide on Further Cuts to Service

Photo: Union workers assemble outside the AC Transit public hearing Wednesday. The board of directors is considering three sets of cuts, each totaling an 8.7 percent reduction in hours.
Jeff Totten/Photo
Union workers assemble outside the AC Transit public hearing Wednesday. The board of directors is considering three sets of cuts, each totaling an 8.7 percent reduction in hours.

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OAKLAND - Faced with a projected $56 million dollar deficit for the next fiscal year, the AC Transit board of directors is considering three possible sets of service cuts aimed at saving the agency $11.4 million annually.

The board is also considering a request from agency staff to declare a fiscal emergency in order to give the agency more leeway when making financial decisions, according to agency spokesperson Clarence Johnson.

The three proposals - ending weekend service on all but high demand lines, curtailing night service and an across-the-board service reduction - would cut service hours by 8.7 percent.

The 1 and the 1R lines would not be affected in the first two proposals, though under the third option they would stop in Oakland and no longer service Berkeley. Under the third scenario, the 51A and 51B lines would have their frequency reduced to every 10 to 20 minutes.

Cory LaVigne, service and operations planning manager for the agency, said at a public hearing Wednesday that aspects of all three plans will be included in a revised service reduction plan set to be released Friday.

"We wanted to hear what the public had to say prior to making any ... service changes," LaVigne told a packed room of 120 riders and transit employees gathered at the hearing.

The board will decide on how to cut the 182,000 service hours at its June 2 meeting at the earliest, Johnson said.

The service reduction is part of a larger effort to reduce spending, including implementing layoffs and consolidating departments, Johnson said.

Lewis Clinton, chief financial officer for the agency, told the board that the decline in sales and property taxes as well as in state support over the last six months has necessitated the declaration of a fiscal emergency.

"As a consequence, we are now looking at exhausting completely the districts net working capital within the next 12-month period of time," Clinton said. "We have ourselves in a position that we need to make some drastic changes to our overall operations, and in order to do that we need to declare this fiscal emergency."

Dozens of riders addressed the board of directors, asking them to spare lines vital to their daily commute, while others refuted the agency's request to declare a fiscal emergency.

Berkeley resident Rachel Resnikoff, asked the board to end the agency's Bus Rapid Transit plan - an 18-mile series of dedicated bus lanes stretching from the UC Berkeley campus to San Leandro - and use those funds to bridge the deficit.

The Berkeley City Council recently voted against the plan earlier this month, though Oakland and San Leandro have approved the plan.

"If you are going to pour tons of concrete down Telegraph Avenue, but you have to fire drivers and you have to have to cut schedules, and you don't have mechanics and you can't find any more buses, we don't need concrete down the middle of Telegraph."

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission - the body that oversees federal funding for the rapid transit plan - reallocated $35 million in rapid transit funds to AC Transit's general fund in December to reduce service cuts. But Johnson said an additional $25 million set aside for the rapid transit plan cannot be reallocated.

In the meantime, the agency will have to reduce service in addition to the 7.7 percent reduction implemented in March.

"It's kind of like reliving a bad dream," Johnson said.


Javier Panzar is the news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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