The Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) is preparing to drastically reduce transit service unless federal funds are released by the U.S. Department of Labor. We are seeking input from the community regarding this serious transportation loss.
How does this affect the community? The Metropolitan Transit District is your public transportation provider. MTD provides bus service in the cities of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta, and throughout the South Coast. The transit district is a political subdivision of the State of California and is responsible for following all applicable state and federal laws.
If you ride with MTD, you are among approximately eight million annual passengers on our buses within and between the communities of the South Coast. On a typical weekday, approximately 26,000 passengers ride MTD buses. The buses are often full. You may have already asked MTD to increase transit service.
Even if you hardly ever, or never, choose to ride MTD, you are among those who benefit from reduced roadway congestion, more available parking, and the community service MTD provides for those who cannot drive themselves. Imagine, if you can, road conditions if those 26,000 trips per weekday cannot be made by transit.
MTD relies on the federal funds that are currently on hold. Without these dollars, MTD has no choice but to implement major transit service reductions no later than January 2014.
The service cuts would include the complete elimination of some routes and the severely reduced frequency of others. The remaining buses would often be overloaded and forced to leave would-be riders at the curb. The cuts would affect MTD’s entire service area, from the Ventura County line to the western end of Goleta, forcing many current riders to find other forms of transportation.
How did this happen?
Last September, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013, commonly referred to as PEPRA. A number of labor unions — including Teamsters Local 186, representing MTD’s drivers, supervisors, mechanics, and utility workers — have objected to provisions of the pension reform act, claiming that it conflicts with federal transit law (Section 13c). Federal transit law requires that employee protections (especially collective bargaining) be in place and certified by the U.S. Department of Labor prior to the release of federal transit funds to a public transit provider.
Teamsters Local 186 and other unions representing transit employees in California have formally objected to the certification of a number of federal grants, including MTD’s grant, arguing that the Pension Reform Act of 2013 conflicts with bargaining rights related to pensions. As a result, over $1.2 billion in federal transit funds is being withheld from transit agencies throughout California, pending a decision by the Department of Labor.
Locally, $4.6 million in federal transit funds has been withheld. MTD and Teamsters Local 186 have agreed that half of those funds are reimbursement to the MTD for expenses incurred prior to the enactment of the Pension Reform Act of 2013. A new grant request for half of the funds has been submitted and is pending Department of Labor approval.
With a heavy heart, MTD has prepared two Emergency Service Reduction Plan options showing what would be required to enact such a severe service reduction. These are available for review on MTD’s website and at MTD’s Transit Center (1020 Chapala St.). The transit district is hosting a meeting regarding this emergency plan on Wednesday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m. at the MTD Administration Building, at 550 Olive Street in Santa Barbara. At this meeting, the MTD Board of Directors and staff will listen to the community’s input. If you are not able to attend the meeting, you can write to MTD at 550 Olive Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; call MTD at (805)963-3364 x 555; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If this funding issue is not resolved, MTD’s Board of Directors is expected to make the final decision on service reductions at its meeting of August 20, at 8:30 a.m.
Besides providing input on the Emergency Service Reduction Plan, you can help by contacting your federal and state government representatives to ask that the PEPRA matter (California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013) with the U.S. Department of Labor be resolved quickly. Also, ask that MTD’s grant request for half of its funding be certified immediately.
Sherrie Fisher is the Metropolitan Transit District’s general manager.