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RTM Committees Vote to Fully Restore Westport Commuter Shuttle Budget

70 percent of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) must vote May 7 to fully restore the budget in order for the cuts to be overridden.

 

, who own only one car because of this unique service, and who moved to town specifically because of this convenience, were relieved when the RTM’s Finance and Transit committees voted unanimously at Wednesday night to recommend the RTM fully restore the town’s Transit District budget, which was recently cut by the Board of Finance.

it initially cut from the proposed $248,000 Transit District budget. If the RTM votes May 7 to restore the $60,000 the finance board has excluded , the Transit District budget would be fully restored.

Members of the RTM discussed various ways at the meeting Wednesday to expand ridership and increase revenue in order to keep the shuttle service running.

“If you had busses later at night, I think you would have expanded ridership," said RTM Finance Committee Chair Jeff Wieser." I think, in fact, you need more money, not less money."

Westport Transit District Co-Director Bud Titsworth said from a marketing standpoint he would like to ‘show the flag without spending more money’ in order to increase ridership. He feels a weekly column in a local news publication regarding transit news and shuttle routes will keep the shuttle on the map.

“We already have several ideas to test increased ridership,” Titsworth said. “We have several different flavors of fare increase options.”

Board of Finance member John Pincavage, who initially made the motion to restore the $53,753 at the board meeting last Wednesday, clarified that the board has no interest in cutting the shuttle. What they are interested in doing is taking the , and gradually decreasing it over the course of a few years to a rock bottom number, according to Pincavage.

“What they charge for daily (railroad) parking has a direct influence on what we can charge for a rider. There has to be some sort of coordination if you want to get the ridership up on the busses,” Pincavage said. “The bottom line is there is a lot of work to be done.”

Jim Ross, a Westporter who uses the S4 shuttle everyday to commute to Stamford, spoke out against the cuts and affirmed that the service is priceless for folks like him. Ross lost his vision several years ago and now relies on the shuttle.

“We are not sipping champagne and eating caviar on this bus. For must of us people we need this service,” Ross said. “We are not like ‘woo-hoo, lets go take the bus,’”

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According to Ross, this discussion is not about a 19 percent subsidy, it is about the quality of life within our community. This service is for all Westporters – rich and poor, old and young, he said.

“How are you going to hang us out like that?” Ross said. “I’m going to have to find a new way to get to work.”

Westport State Representative Jonathan Steinberg questioned whether or not the Board of Finance had truly looked at what kind of community Westport is and whether or not they had thought beyond ‘the dollars and cents.'

“I think if they honestly believed this was a good solution, they didn’t do their homework… We have something other communities would die for,” Steinberg said, adding that we all must pitch in to what should become a community initiative to keep the service running.

Chris Rueli (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 10:28 AM
How much of a fare increase would you pay for the commuter bus? Does a $1.00 - $1.50 fare increase sound reasonable to you?
vincent Petrecca April 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
The transit system costs Westport and Ct. taxpayers $ 960,000 and supports 70 RR commuters and 14 ADA riders per day...Income is less than $100,000..This service should be modified to a single S-2, 3 and 4, AM and PM. The ADA should be farmed out to Westport Taxi..Service maintained, savings of $ 500,000..All happy...
vincent Petrecca April 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM
I wonder if the RTM members realize that annual total cost per Westport user of the transit system is $ 8,629...This data from Norwalk Transit analysis. We could easily supply a limo to these riders and save taxpayer funds.. The service can be continued but needs to be reviewed and reduced....
jjhm April 19, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Thank you for listening to reason.
jjhm April 19, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Thank you for listening to some good reasons to keep the shuttle system in tact.
Carol Buffinton April 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM
I would love to see some students interested in city (suburb) planning at Staples take up the issue - studying ways to increase ridership on the system, create awareness of it being here and figuring out what needs to be done to make it super efficient. Not only would they get major cudos from the town but a leg up on their college applications! Plus it would sure help the town.
Bart Shuldman April 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM
The lost opportunity to force the transit board to go back and find ways to increase the revenue while providing the benefit to those that use it, is sad. The current cost is too low for the benefit provided, while the few that use it reap huge savings. And everyone in Westport pays not matter what. The Board of Finance told the transit people to go work on a solution. That is exactly what we needed. Take 6 months and work on a solution that solves the budget issue and still provides the benefit to those that want to use it in Westport. However, our wonderful free spending RTM will give the money back in the budget and the pressure on the transit system gone. A lost chance-clearly. The Board of Finance set into motion the request for the transit people to spend 6 months and work on a solution. The RTM just gave them a free pass. This is wrong and sorry to see the RTM walk from what could have created a better solution for all in Westport. But this has been a town and a RTM where they continue to allow money to be spent for a few, while taxes go up for everyone. And NO plan or action to tackle these difficult situations. Tough problems come with tough hard worked solutions. Not just yes voters. The voters spoke in November and this action by the RTM will not be looked at lightly
Dick Lowenstein April 20, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Mr. Shuldman has it backwards. The Board of Finance punted to the RTM to make the tough decisions. I hope the full RTM will follow the recommendations of its two commitees. The First Selectman has announced the formation of a Citizens Transit Committee, which I hope will contribute good ideas for an improved transit system. As for spending money "for a few," believe me, the few ain't the 1%! Dick Lowenstein RTM District 5
vincent Petrecca April 21, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I would hope that all members of the RTM have seen the detailed worksheets on transit system usage........no more than 150 riders use this service daily...and 15 of those are ADA riders...We have 28,000 people in this town..Continue the service but simply discipline the rides and routes and outsource the ADA to volunteers or the Westport Taxi service which could use a boost... This does not need another committee....Move emotion out of this de cesion.... NTD should be making adjustments to this schedule without any input from FOB or RTM..Is that not part of their job.. They just maximize use of foolish taxpayer funds.. And raise the fares right now.....Rides are as little as .60 per trip with subsidies of $ 9.00-$12.00.....Does the RTM subcommittees have this info ????? The 99.7 percent of this town not using the system but paying for it is where the RTM should be paying attention... We just elected a new Finance Board to put some reason into Westport's increasing tax load...This tax load already being felt in more expensive properties in this town will continue to grow and reduce the desire to locate in Westport.. People do not move here for the bus system !!!!!
Curious April 22, 2012 at 12:49 AM
You must be a newcomer to Westport, as the last time the town got involved with taxis, it cost us $1 million in a court case. As for volunteers, are you offering to be one?
vincent Petrecca April 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I would be a volunteer.....It is a shame that $ 300,000 is spent on providing rides for 14 people per day.... Read details of taxi vs. town..Just more justification to discipline this system...Very supportive of private enterprise.. Taxpayers have subsidized this system for 30 years at an estimated cost of $ 25 million...We could have three parking garages...
Bart Shuldman April 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Mr. Lowenstein. I appreciate your involvement in town, but found your response sad. The elections in November brought change to the Finance Board as residents were upset as our liabilities grew to $400 million and the First Selectman and past Chairperson was doing little. The new BofF is taking on the tough challenge of our burdening financial situation. They are working on the costs in town, including the transit system. You should leave the 6 month decision in place as a solution would be found. Our town taxes effect everyone. Unlike your 1% statement, our taxes are not progressive. Everyone is the same. The people effected the most by the rising taxes are our senior citizens, and those that have been impacted by the significant economic downturn. You should be supporting the efforts to control costs as they benefit the very people you seem to be worried about. The 1st Selectman is not leading, he is now following the direction of our new BofF. It was an unanimous vote to give the transit 6 months. In addition, some BofF members agreed to help them. Make them find solutions that will lower our taxes, lower the costs-or raise revenues. Ridership has been declining for years. Taxes are rising to the point it is hurting our home prices. We cannot continue to do nothing. Everything must be looked at. Mr. Lowenstein, if you care about the people you mention in your divisive 1% statement then work to find solutions.
Dick Lowenstein April 23, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Come to the RTM budget meeting on May 7th and express your opinions.

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