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<b>HEADS UP:</b>  MTD executive Sherrie Fisher painted a grim picture for bus riders should potential budget cuts become reality.

Paul Wellman

HEADS UP: MTD executive Sherrie Fisher painted a grim picture for bus riders should potential budget cuts become reality.


Bus Riders Brace for Impact

MTD Warns of Potential Service Cuts


Thursday, July 11, 2013
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Quietly ​— ​almost meekly ​— ​Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) executive Sherrie Fisher put the County Board of Supervisors on notice that the sky was poised to fall on bus riders throughout the South Coast because of massive federal transportation funding cuts now looming. Fisher made her remarks along with all other members of the public seeking to raise issues not on the agenda. “I’m not here with my hand out,” Fisher said. “I’m here to talk about a funding crisis.” Fisher invited the supervisors to a major public hearing the MTD is holding July 24 to address the problem.

MTD has already been denied $2.3 million in federal funds this year and is scheduled to lose another $2.3 million later this year. That’s roughly 20 percent of the bus district’s total operating budget. Precipitating the crisis ​— ​which could cost about 50 drivers their jobs and cut services by 30 percent ​— ​is a complex conflict involving the state’s pension reform act passed last year; the Teamsters, which represents bus drivers; and the Department of Labor, which has to ensure that no federal dollars are sent to agencies violating the collective bargaining process with their unions. The pension reform act mandates that all municipal entities ​— ​like MTD ​— ​require their employees pay a greater amount into their pension funds. The Teamsters objected, arguing that such a change would have to first be negotiated at the bargaining table. When the union noted its objections to the Department of Labor, that department put federal transit dollars earmarked for MTD on ice.

Santa Barbara is hardly unique in its predicament; $2 billion in federal transit dollars earmarked for other California transit agencies have been frozen, too. Three weeks ago, Rep. Lois Capps arranged a conference call between MTD, the Teamsters, and the Department of Labor ​— ​MTD had not been able to get anyone from the Labor Department on the phone prior ​— ​but nothing, Fisher lamented, has happened since. The only solution on the horizon, she said, was AB 160, a bill in the State Legislature that would exempt transit agencies from the pension reform act. That bill, however, is stalled in committee and may not make it out.

“The sky is about to fall. This is a potentially massive disaster for local transit agencies,” he said.

Assemblymember Das Williams said he supports the bill because of the stakes involved. “The sky is about to fall. This is a potentially massive disaster for local transit agencies,” he said. For transit-dependent riders, Williams said, the consequences are immediate. But for people concerned about traffic congestion and air pollution, he added, the impacts are equally significant. Williams stressed that whatever happens, the Department of Labor should not return money earmarked for MTD back to the general treasury.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Like any other business seeing revenues drop, personnel costs also must be cut accordingly since they are by far the biggest cost of this organization.

Employees choosing to work for these public or quasi-public entities need to understand the direct link between their compensation and revenues available. While they clearly understand when revenues go up, they expect greater compensation.

The reverse is also exactly true - revenues go down, and so does their compensation. Private industry employees and especially sole proprietors know this connection without exception. The solution is not to drop services, while giving personnel costs a free ride at the overall expense of the mission.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How about a toll tax to drive up State?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Time to raise the cost per rider, and to sell a rider pass program to area employers so they can get their workers to work! Problem solved, but hey that might just be to easy!
We have over 500 taxi cabs in town, there is an alternative transportation system in place in town and the County. Six (6) workers traveling to work in a mini-van taxi @ $15.00 per overall ride minimum is $2.50 each way or five ($5.00) dollars per day per taxi ride shuttle, per worker. If the MTD can create terminal hubs so riders can take taxi shuttle's to work, then an alternative is truly available.
Lot's of cab's sitting around the MTD, downtown waiting for rides. I'm sure all those drivers would take MTD Vouchers and discount there meter ride ever day if they were assured of payment from a ticket window daily or even accept payment week to week.
Non union Insured drivers ready to work for the MTD as cash contractors already approved by the SB Police Department who have passed a background check and drug test. who's cabs are inspected mechanically through out the year.
This sounds like a win, win to me, but hey I'm just a cab driver who's open to new ideas and solutions rather then cumbersome government financing.
The name of the Taxi Business is being available! The City and County now have cabs available and they're ready to go!
I know it's a nice idea, but I'm to much a cynic and don't really see the politics of this ever happening. Maybe that's what's wrong, we've become inflexible and unable to see the forest for the tree's! It's to bad because we have 500 starving cabbies who sure could use the extra work, who would be willing to pay a licensing fee to get certified as a "MTD Cabby!" Take $20.00 per week from a "Certified MTD Cabby," off the payout per week, and everyone wins! There is a solution, there always is when you think outside the box and take the blinders off! Look around people we're here to help!

peterdcal (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thia city has way to many cabs...... and there's no cab control so they all charge whatever they want....... MTD provides a good service...... increase fares and make the college students pay more too.....

retprotector (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 4:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Peterdcal has a very interesting idea, worth exploring. No reason groups couldn't be taken, and I bet drunk driving would decrease as well.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It would be very unfortunate if the already rather limited bus service were cut more. The solution is not only the AB 160 but primarily for the unions to agree to paying more into the pension fund. What is there to negotiate? Do it or lose jobs (and bus service)?

As for charging the college students more, they already are charged quite a lot, all of them, and most don't take the bus, but walk to SBCC, for instance, or ride their bikes, or for convenience buy parking permits.

Charging those who don't use the bus more would be unfair. Fairer would be charging the users the same fares as other bus users. Perhaps that would work out to more than now, perhaps not.

peterdcal's suggestions are interesting.

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 9:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am in a panic over how my serfs will get to work! Maybe I will have to go back to having them sleep in my locked garage...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 7:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

College students pay college tuition like any other student..... But they pay a very small fee, something like $35, for a full semester of unlimited rides..... if you averaged their use with what they pay for their pass.... their probably paying pennies per ride. All other adults that buy unlimited passes, pay $52 a month..... not even close to the students....... The College Students are adults and should pay an adult fare.... Heck even Grade school students pay more than college students.......

retprotector (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2013 at 8:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To add to retprotector's point, though a student may pay the $35 fee, they don't necessarily ride the bus. While I promote mas transit, it hardly seems fair to be asked to pay for both parking and bus fee.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2013 at 9:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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