AC Transit announced today it plans to cut service on 108 of 113 lines across the East Bay on March 28th, amounting to an 8 percent overall reduction.
Despite the broad cuts, the agency is pitching the change as one that will spare its most transit-dependent riders. By making changes based on thorough demographic analysis and public
outreach, the agency claims the cuts will not adversely affect the communities that most depend on bus service and that service may actually be enhanced as a result.
The agency has conducted over a dozen public meetings about the service cuts and has modified its changes based on rider feedback at those sessions, according to AC Transit Spokesperson Clarence Johnson. "What we tried to do was maintain as much service as possible for the people who need it, with the understanding that some cuts needed to be made," he said.
Johnson also noted that AC Transit had spent over nine months reaching out to the public, explaining the agency's predicament and asking their riders what service they considered most essential.
Ultimately, the changes on the 108 lines will save the agency approximately
$9.5 million annually, chipping away at the $56 million deficit looming in fiscal year 2010-11. The agency has also instituted hiring freezes, raised fares, and asked every department to cut its budget by 15 percent. The only lines that won't be affected by the cuts will be the 1-1R, 11, 40, 72R and 97, along with the 800 late night services.
Perhaps surprisingly, some of the advocates most concerned with transit viability backed up the agency's assertion. "It's tremendously sad to see AC Transit added to the long list of transit agencies that have cut service," said Carli Paine, Transportation Director for TransForm. "No one wants to cheer service cuts, but there are definitely going to be some operational benefits that emerge as a by-product of the changes."
"They dug into data on transit dependency and did their best to ensure that those riders who rely on AC Transit bus service would suffer least," added Paine.