The Santa Barbara County Metropolitan Transportation District held a public meeting yesterday to discuss a potential four to five percent reduction in services scheduled to take effect August 22.
The proposed cutbacks would eliminate lines with lowest ridership — such as lines 9 and 22 — and modify other route schedules. The reductions are in response to an anticipated budget shortfall of $300,000 in 2011-2012 and $1.2 million in 2012-2013.
MTD General Controller Jerry Estrada said the deficit is the result of several financial agreements being terminated in a short span of time.
“Next year, our three-year federal air quality funds are expiring,” Estrada said. “Our fixed fuel contract — which allows us to pay $2.57 a gallon for fuel — expires at the end of 2012 and we will go to market value, which is $3.70. Also, our collective bargaining agreement with our union expires July 1, 2012.”
Estrada said while the proposed cut is not ideal, it is a relatively small concession considering the district increased its services by 26 percent since 2000.
Santa Barbara resident Henry Nassi said the plan to discontinue line 22 — which runs from downtown Santa Barbara to the Santa Barbara Mission, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens — will hit the community hardest.
“This line was very good … but now cancelling it is going to cause a big problem,” Nassi said. “Especially in August, it is going to be the tourist season and they will want to go from Fiesta to the Old Mission. There are a lot of seniors that will have difficulty.”
Although the route is not MTD’s most popular, Santa Barbara resident Conrad Christensen said it is a necessity for many.
“It may have low ridership, but it’s absolutely essential to us,” Christensen said. “It is the only line that services that corridor.”
According to MTD Board Chair Dave Davis, the proposal has not been finalized and the board plans to work with the public to make cuts that least impact the community.
“It has to happen,” Davis said. “Now it is just about where those reductions will be.”
Additional meetings will be held at the Goleta Valley Community Center at 5:30 p.m. on May 5 and at MTD Headquarters at 8:30 p.m. on May 17. Public input and suggestions can be sent by e-mail to email@example.com.