AC Transit took its first steps June 24 toward implementing a December district-wide bus service cut. The bus district held a public board workshop to reveal the first public details of its plan and set a Sept. 9 date for a formal public hearing.
District officials say the cuts are necessary in order to keep AC Transit solvent over the next several years, as well as to plug a $9.74 million shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year budget.
The workshop came on the same day that the AC Transit board officially declared a fiscal emergency allowing the district to move forward with the proposed line cuts and adjustments.
If the service cuts are approved by the board, the district will drop 905 hours of bus service per day across the two-county district, 458 hours on weekends, for an estimated annual savings of $18 million.
"We’re going to run less, but we’re going to run what we run better,” AC Transit Services and Operations Manager Corey Lavigne told board members at a special 3 p.m. workshop on the proposed service cuts last week.
The complicated service-cut proposal introduced by district staff contains some complete line cuts and the elimination of small pockets of service, as well partial cuts and consolidation of other lines.
Lavigne said that the proposed changes “will mean additional transfers for riders on some of the adjusted lines,” but told board members that staff had no recommendation yet on any possible changes to the district’s transfer policy to adjust to the additional need. Transfers currently cost AC Transit riders an additional 25 cents, and can only be used for one transfer.
Trying to track the proposed staff changes between the written staff report and the existing AC Transit bus line map is next to impossible, and Lavigne promised board members that maps of the proposed changes would be made available to the public in the near future.
Board members made few comments during the staff presentation on the proposed changes, which several board members had already seen and been briefed on in private sessions. Board members appeared resigned to the changes and several suggested that this may not reflect all of the changes necessary.
“I’m concerned that the work that [staff has] done [on the proposed line cuts changes] will not adequately address our budget situation,” Ward 5 Director Jeff Davis said, adding that, “I hope [staff has] left some reserve in your tank” for coming up with new line cuts.
The AC Transit Board proposed taking a formal vote on the proposed line cuts and changes when the board meets on July 8.
The staff proposed eliminating three lines in the Oakland hills, including the 47 line between Fruitvale BART and 55th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, the 59 and 59A lines between the Lake Merritt BART and Rockridge BART stations, and the 41 line between Highland Avenue and Estates Drive.
In Berkeley, portions of the 79 line between the downtown Berkeley BART and the El Cerrito Plaza BART are proposed to be eliminated, to be replaced by a “North Berkeley Neighborhood Shuttle,” described in the staff report as a “neighborhood service for implementation from downtown Berkeley to Pierce and Buchanan, the Target store on Eastshore, and University Village, then via Eighth Street to Cedar Street and returning to Martin Luther King.” The report says the new North Berkeley shuttle “replaces portions of the current 19, 52L and 79 lines.” What portion of the 79 line to be eliminated is not clear from the staff report.
AC Transit staff is also proposing eliminating the portion of the 74 line in Richmond that runs to Marina Bay from 23rd Street, as well as the portion of the 13 line between the West Oakland BART station and the old Oakland Army Base.
The district also proposes several completely new lines as well to help compensate for some of the line adjustments and cuts, including a shuttle between the Eastmont Transit Center on 73rd and MacArthur and the Oakland Airport, a new crosstown line along Fruitvale Avenue connecting the Dimond and Fruitvale business districts and portion of Alameda, a West Oakland neighborhood line between MacArthur BART, Lake Merritt BART, and West Oakland BART, and a new line connecting MacArthur Boulevard with Chinatown, downtown Oakland, and Jack London Square.