Posted by Ian:
When the budget comes down later this month one casualty of the “crunch,” as Mayor Cliff Barwick portrayed the city’s financial reality this year, is the transit system, in particular the paratransit component.
A report to council at Monday’s meeting advised St. Thomas Transit is shedding riders and maintenance costs for the four newest buses in the fleet could escalate at an alarming rate once the warranties expire.
Dealing with the latter issue first, why would the city purchase these vehicles, which Dave White, supervisor of roads and transportation, admits are only used by a few other communities and there is little “historical data” on them?
They are prone to major component failures and have spent a disproportionate amount of time out of service. Which prompted Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman to question, “What does this do to us in the future when the warranties are up.”
White conceded the city has had to lease buses, which places further strain on the transit budget.
Of greater concern, however, is the potential paring back of paratransit service. “We will be looking at a reduction in services,” cautioned Barwick.
This is prompted by a $29,000 shortfall in fare revenue last year, a gap surely to widen in 2010.
The decline in ridership and burgeoning maintenance costs is “a potential well where we’re pouring down a lot of money,” stressed Barwick on Monday.
“We have to look at routes and hours of operation,” he stressed.
One scenario is to encourage accessibility riders to shift to city transit buses, where possible, which could permit one paratransit vehicle to come out of service.
Which prompted John Dewancker, director of environmental services to caution, “We need to be very prudent on this. An hours of operation reduction could severely impact levels of ridership.”
More worrisome for paratransit users is the possibility of tinkering with eligibility guidelines for this service.
“Eligibility for paratransit is a sensitive issue,” Dewancker admitted. “But it should be looked at.”
The city’s accessibility community needs to make themselves heard through staff, our elected officials and the municipal accessibility committee.
This is one bus they can’t afford to miss.