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POLL: Westport Commuter Shuttle Riders Unite, Speak Out Against Possible Cuts

Shuttle bus riders gave their reasons why Westport should keep the current transportation system in place.

Shuttle riders have united after the board of finance recently voted unanimously to into one single line running from the Imperial parking lot, which will allow commuters to park at the Imperial parking lot for free and .

The shuttle riders believe these cuts will hurt Westport more than they will help the town financially.

The bus service returns value to every household in town, according to Westport resident David Greenapple, who believes the service is positive for all who live in Westport. The shuttle makes Westport homes more valuable because more people believe they can live in Westport and commute to New York City, he said.

Members of the Board of Finance, though, believe the cost to maintain the existing shuttle network is extremely high given the low ridership and that the current routes only benefit a small amount of commuters living directly on those shuttle lines.

Greenapple noted a bus rider pays about $480 or more a year in shuttle fees. The $111,800 targeted savings shared over Westport’s 9,586 households is only $11.66 per household per year, according to Greenapple.

“As a homeowner and commuter, I want it. The bus service to the train to support commuting to New York was part of our decision to come here,” Greenapple stated, adding his real estate agent “pitched” his family on the benefit of the bus service.

“I think the value that public bus service brings to this neighborhood is worth much more than $12 per household per year,” Greenapple said.

Carolin Sigal is one Westport resident who will feels that value. Sigal said the cuts will negatively impact her as she would have to bring her husband to the train station daily due to ‘the extraordinarily long wait for a parking permit.’

“Because we have two young, school-aged children, this is going to be complicated,” Sigal said. “My husband will need to be at the station on one side of town, my older son in middle school on the other, and both at roughly the same time.”

Sigal said it will be ‘quite a juggling act’ trying to get everyone where they need to be on a daily basis for the next five -- plus -- years.

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Westport resident and shuttle rider David Fuld agrees with Greenapple’s theory about the correlation between Westport real estate values and the ability to commute easily. He believes everyone in Westport should be concerned with maintaining their property value.

“We see it in trying to maintain our fine school system,” Fuld said. “We should also see it in trying to distinguish Westport as place where the challenges and realities of commuting are understood by our politicians and that actions be put in place to make it better for everyone.”

Fault said the board of finance, without looking at the larger picture, has tried to make the cuts into a simple cost per active rider analysis, which would be similar to ‘comparing per actual robbery count,’ to show that the commuter bus is not economical.

“The commuter service is available to all Westport residents,” Fuld said. “I think if our residents actually understood this and the possible affect on their property value everyone would agree not to cancel service.”

Downtown Westport resident Sal Liccione does not use the shuttle for commuting purposes; however, he uses it to get around town. 

Liccione, who does not currently own a car and has lived in town for eight years, also uses the bus as his gateway to Fairfield County and beyond -- that is how he gets to the train station.

Regardless of why each shuttle rider uses the transportation, every rider feels Westport should be seeking opportunities to make our town a more attractive place to live not only for new comers, but also for residents of long standing.

Bart Shuldman April 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Riders are saying they are saving money by not having to buy a car, gas, etc. All this for $1.50 per ride. The town however, has amassed almost $400 million in debt and obligations. Something has to change. Rising taxes will have a more profound 'negative' effect on the values of our homes then losing the bus. One suggestion, charge the riders much more. A yearly cost for a car must approach $7,500 for insurance, cost for car, gas, etc. How about charging a $200 monthly pass, just like the railroad. The riders would still get significant savings by not having to purchase a car, etc., and the town would get more for the wonderful service we provide.
Steven McClenning April 11, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Why charge riders more? The riders are benefiting the whole community by reducing rush hour traffic, reducing air pollution and freeing up parking spaces at the train station. There are 4,200 monthly parking permit holders for 1,400 spaces. Plus a 4+ year waiting list. The Monthly permit is among the lowest in the region at $27 a month. Compare that to the South Norwalk Station at $81 a month. If we raised the parking permit cost $2.50 a month we could more than cover the amount that the BOF wants to cut from the transit budget.
Marvin Feinberg April 11, 2012 at 04:05 PM
and how about charging $200 per month for a parking pass. this makes no sense. the bus is more efficient, green and responsible. maybe the bus should be expanded, free and the non-users should be paying for it
Anne Nonimus April 11, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I don't know. I can see both sides of the arguement. Perhaps there should be a compromise. Split the baby as it were....
vincent Petrecca April 16, 2012 at 03:58 PM
This transit system costs the Town of Westport and State of Connecticut $ 960,000 for about 70 daily commuters who pay fees of less than $ 100,000.. That is less than .003 of our town population...The other 99+ percent are paying the bill...This system can and should be reduced and fares doubled at once !!!!!
Steven McClenning April 16, 2012 at 08:42 PM
These figures are incorrect. The commuter service to Saugatuck Station (S2, S3, S4, Imperial) averages about 70 riders a day. 1. This average number represents way more than 70 people. The same 70 people do not ride every day. 2. These lines (S2, S3, S4, Imperial) cost a total of $369,362 of which the riders pay $60,660 and Westport pays $63,004. 3. The shuttle benefits all of Westport because it takes cars off the road during rush hour. Frees up parking permits for others. Increases real-estate values. Sounds like a good deal to me!
jjhm April 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM
What percentage does the State subsidize versus the Town of Westport?
vincent Petrecca April 19, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Total taxpayer cost per Westport transit user is $ 8,629...Data from Norwalk Transit. We could supply limos and save money... We should maintain selective ( S2, S3, S4, Imperial ) runs...Turn ADA costing $300,000 for 14 daily riders over to Westport Taxi... This would continue service and save $ 500,000.....
Bart Shuldman April 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM
The lost opportunity is forcing the transit board to go back and find ways to increase the revenue while benefitted those that use it. The current cost is too low for the benefit provided, while the few that use it. reap huge savings. The Board of Finance told the transit people to go work on a solution. That is exactly what we need. However, our wonderful RTM will give the money back in the budget and the pressure on the transit system gone. A lost chance-clearly. This is wrong and sorry to see the RTM walk from what could have driven 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. The voters spoke in November and this action by the RTM will not be looked at lightly

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