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LAVTA Wheels proposes bus fare hikes, service cuts

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  • 1/22 Livermore Indepedent
    Published Thursday, January 22, 2009, by the Livermore Independent Bus Fare Hikes, Service Cuts on the Table By Ron McNicoll The public will get its chance to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2009
      Published Thursday, January 22, 2009, by the Livermore Independent

      Bus Fare Hikes, Service Cuts on the Table

      By Ron McNicoll

      The public will get its chance to comment on proposed fare hikes and
      service cutbacks at a Wheels public hearing on Feb. 2.

      The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. at the headquarters of LAVTA, 1362
      Rutan Ct., Suite 100. LAVTA is the agency that operates Wheels.

      After the hearing, the board will review staff recommendations, and is
      expected to make phase one cutback decisions immediately. Any cutbacks
      made would go into effect 30 days later. The board will take an extra
      month to decide about cutbacks proposed in phases two and three, said
      agency executive director Paul Matsuoka.

      Three workshops have been held to explain the proposed changes to the
      public. The third was added because LAVTA received so many inquiries
      from people who were just beginning to find out about the news, said
      Matsuoka.

      The board's operations committee met Monday to decide recommendations
      for the meeting on Feb. 2. The committee, comprised of County
      Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Livermore Councilmember Marj Leider, and
      Pleasanton Councilmember Cindy McGovern, backed implementation of all
      of the phase one cuts.

      The first phase changes are quick to accomplish. They did not run
      into opposition from people at the workshops, or from public comments
      on the agency's web page, said Matsuoka.

      Second phase changes would be considered at the board's meeting in
      March. It will provide board members time to think them over. Phase
      two involves many changes in bus lines, and elimination of some runs.
      They could not be implemented until June, because of the need to
      figure out new schedules and have them printed.

      The third phase has the changes that the staff doesn't want to see
      happen, because they are major. The board might deal with them in
      March, or a later meeting. Phase three has "stuff that really starts
      to cut into core of our system. We want to take the ideas to public
      and the board (for more consideration). We want to hold (phase three
      changes) in abeyance, and institute them only if the economy takes a
      huge nosedive," said Matsuoka.

      The phase three cuts would be in the core routes, and would involve
      such things as eliminating weekend service on the No. 12 line, which
      serves Las Positas College. The core routes are the No. 10, 12, and
      15 lines. Eliminating weekend service on the No. 8 line, which serves
      Pleasanton, had been nominated for phase one, but was pushed back to
      phase two, after the staff heard the public at the workshops, said
      Matsuoka.

      The No. 8 line runs on a somewhat different route on weekends than it
      does on weekdays. It carries people from BART to the fairgrounds and
      parts of downtown. However, the weekend route for No. 8 also stops
      at the Pleasanton Senior Center and the senior Ridgeview Commons
      apartments, and those were considerations that pushed the proposal
      back to the phase two level.

      The operations committee did not talk about fares. Matsuoka is
      preparing specific amounts, sharpening them from the ranges announced
      earlier. On the basic fare, a hike of either 25 or 50 cents from
      today's $1.75 fare will be recommended. Fares for other tickets
      would be geared to the percentage change in the basic fare.

      PHASE ONE CUTS RECOMMENDED

      The operations committee recommended eliminating one run on Route 3,
      which travels in a clockwise direction form BART to Stoneridge Mall,
      and circulates in the northeastern quadrant of Interstate 580 and 680.
      The remainder of the 3 route, which travels counterclockwise, would
      continue.

      Saturday service on the No. 18A line, which runs along 4th Street in
      Livermore, from the transit center to Granada High school and into
      Sunset West, was recommended for discontinuation. Matsuoka said that
      the No. 10 line, which runs parallel along First Street and Stanley
      Boulevard, can pick up some of the slack.

      The No. 12 line would also be affected in phase one. It would have
      longer headways of 45 minutes at some times in the day, and shorter,
      15 minutes at others. Thirty minutes is the normal interval, and would
      be preserved on most runs. The change on No. 12 will allow Wheels to
      use three buses instead of four on the route, by eliminating layovers
      at both ends of the runs. That saves salary and fuel money.

      The tighter run times also mean less elasticity for the No. 12 buses,
      if they run late because of traffic jams, especially on the short
      stretches of Interstate 580 they cover on part of the run. The delay
      could cause patrons to miss a timely transfer to another line.

      The No. 20 line would be modified. It goes from BART to the labs in
      the mornings along I-580, and returns via the transit center as a
      local to Airway Boulevard, where it goes back on the freeway. That
      would continue. However, on the afternoon runs, which reverse the
      route, the rush hour schedule would begin at 3:30 p.m., instead of
      2 p.m. Also the local part of the run would be switched to an
      express, with fewer stops.

      That express would not be a substitute for the rapid transit buses
      set to go into use in 2010, if the government grants arrive in time
      to pay for it, said Matsuoka.

      BIG SAVINGS FROM CHANGES

      The changes on the four lines will save Wheels 5300 hours of service
      annually, or about $264,000. Most of the savings are in salaries and
      fuel, as well as some maintenance.

      LAVTA has a $2.7 million surplus, but will be using part of it to
      offset the $1 million loss so far in this fiscal year, which ends June
      30. Wheels depends on the sales tax, which has taken a nosedive in the
      current financial crisis. That loss could grow to about $1.5 million
      for the fiscal year by June 30, said Matsuoka.

      The other big revenue source is the sales tax on gasoline, which has
      dedicated a portion to public transit. That has become a political
      football between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature.
      Sacramento took the money to patch budget holes, which cut transit
      assistance by 75 percent, said Matsuoka.

      Schwarzenegger wants to "obliterate the fund completely this year,
      and forever. The governor said the public transit assistance fund
      would be abolished in 2010. What then? That's why we are looking at
      fare increases, and service reductions," said Matsuoka.
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