Special for the Willits News
A projected $365,000 budget shortfall in Mendocino Transit Authority’s 2011/12 operating budget “will undoubtedly mean some service reductions,” General Manager Bruce Richard said today.
At the March MTA board of directors meeting held in Willits, the board approved eliminating five low-performing round trips on the Willits Rider, but maintaining five better-performing round trips.
Southbound trips marked for elimination start at the Willits Integrated Service Center at 8:44 a.m., 9:24 a.m., 10:24 a.m., 11:25 a.m. and 4:29 p.m. Northbound trips to be eliminated start at the Evergreen Shopping Center at 9:12 a.m., 10:12 a.m., 11:12 a.m., 12:12 p.m. and 5:22 p.m.
The board also approved eliminating Route 15 service between Laytonville and Willits. the route has operated on Wednesdays-only and carries four to five passengers a day, Richard said. in its place MTA will offer its new volunteer driver reimbursement program, e-ride.
And the board approved reducing Ukiah Dial-A-Ride shifts and dispatch support during lower ridership times.
In evaluating service reductions, several factors are considered, Richard explained. “At the top of the list is performance. Routes that have low ridership, or are not meeting the state-required percentage of revenue generated through fares are considered for reduction.
“Staff always looks at daily ridership so recommended cuts will affect as few passengers as possible,” he added.
“Building the FY 2011/12 Operating Budget,” Richard said, “has been particularly challenging because we started the process in February, with a lot of uncertainty about the monies we might, or might not receive, from federal grants and state transit sources.”
One of the biggest uncertainties remains whether or not the California Legislature approves a final budget that includes State Transit Assistance funding. Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s revised budget, released in mid-May, continues to include STA funding. MTA’s share of that would be $523,000.
“If the final budget signed by the governor continues to include the STA funding, the budget can easily be balanced without further cuts,” Richard said. “If that funding is removed by the Legislature, further cuts will be required.”
MTA staff proposes that no further service reductions be approved until the Legislature adopts the final budget, the governor signs it, and MTA’s share of the State transit funding is certain, Richard added. Wwhen this may happen remains uncertain.
MTA’s June Board meeting is scheduled for June 23 in Fort Bragg and video-conferenced with Ukiah. It could be rescheduled to June 30 to buy a little more time to see if the Legislature will complete budget work.