May 28, 2018

State Transit Funding Cuts Hit Estuary Region

In an attempt to balance the upcoming state budget, one area that will see severe cuts is the state’s Municipal Grant Program.  The $4 million program, which provides funds to municipalities and transit districts for senior and disabled transportation, was reduced by 25%.

At a time where the population of persons age 65 and over is expected to increase by 25% in the next 10 years, these cuts may leave many seniors and persons with disabilities stranded.  Those in suburbs and rural areas without access to public bus routes may face the largest transportation challenges, since many of these areas only transportation option is Dial-A-Ride programs funded by the Municipal Grant Program.

In the shoreline region, 9 Town Transit (9TT) funds 60% of its Dial-A-Ride service with Municipal Grant Program funds.  Executive Director Joseph Comerford says that while 9TT has been working hard to prevent service reductions, customers will see some service cuts on Saturdays.  “We were able to absorb some of the cuts to avoid disruptions to our weekday service, but the severity of the funding cuts mean we can’t get through next year unscathed,” Comerford said.

Beginning July 1, 9TT will no long offer Dial-A-Ride services on Saturdays.  In addition, dispatchers will no longer be available on Saturdays, meaning trips cannot be booked or bus information obtained by phone.  Instead, any calls on Saturdays will be directed to voicemail and returned on Monday when the dispatch center re-opens.  The Shoreline Shuttle and Riverside Shuttles will continue to run on Saturdays on the regular Saturday schedule.

“We do not like the idea of not providing customer service by phone when we are running bus service on Saturdays, however it was the only way to avoid deeper service reductions which would have impacted weekdays, when the majority of our customers travel,” says Comerford.

Comerford said that although no one will be available to answer routine calls on Saturday, customers will be able to contact a manager in an emergency situation during the hours of bus service and trip reservations may be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week online at www.9towntransit.com.  He also said that 9TT will closely monitor the budget throughout the year and make additional cuts to the Dial-A-Ride program if necessary to remain within budget unless the state can find the funds to restore all or part of the cuts.

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