, 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.