Despite pleas from riders not to cut bus lines, the AC Transit board of directors voted Wednesday to reduce or eliminate service on 74 lines throughout the East Bay, a plan that includes scaling back Berkeley’s 17 line.
The approved plan was a tamer version of the original proposal, which called for as many as 150 lines to reduce coverage or service times, or be eliminated all together. The transit organization, which faces a $40 million budget deficit, chose to cut fewer lines based on community response at a public hearing last month.
At that hearing, most bus riders said they would prefer to pay higher fares if it meant being able to keep more lines.
The number of lines affected by the new plan surprised many. Sources close to the board of directors had suggested in recent weeks that fewer than 50 lines would be affected, and said the 17 line would be saved because it was among the more heavily frequented lines listed in the original proposal.
The new plan eliminates about 680 hours of service daily—about 11 percent of the total daily offerings, allowing AC Transit to save $12.5 million.
The question of fare changes will come before the board of directors after another public hearing on Wednesday, July 16. At that hearing, riders will consider fare hikes to cut additional money and balance the budget. AC Transit public information officer Mike Mills said the organization is looking to come up with $6 million through fare increases and elimination of discount passes.
“There will be some more tough choices, because although the service reductions take care of a lot of money, we still need to increase revenue,” Mills said.