Mayor Bob Coble, a regular contributor to this blog (in fact, he gets up pretty early to offer his comments sometimes), sent me an e-mail offering further info from his point of view on the local bus system. Here’s his message (sent at 6:32 a.m., which could explain the typos) in its entirety:
The RTA cuts that are in Gina’s article today are being considered by the RTA Services and Standards Committee (which I chair). Our final recommendations will be made August 11th. Those recommendations will be given to the RTA Board for their approval. The purpose of this round of cuts is too accomplish the RTA Board’s policy of reducing the costs of the transit system by 25% in order to stretch the trust fund monies to last until 2010. That will give us two opprotunities (2006 and 2008) to pass a dedicated funding source. State law requires referendums for permanent funding sources e.g. a penny sales tax and requires that the referendums be done during a general election. This is the third round of cuts since the RTA took over the system in October 2002. The first occurred when the RTA took over the system, and they were common sense cuts that were selfevident. No SCE&G route had been changed sinse the 1970’s and there was bus service to plants that had been closed for example. When the RTA took over the system with new buses we did three things to help us evaluate the system. First we installed fare boxes that could actually and accurately count the number of passengers on every route. That gave us the data to make decisions. Secondly, the Service and Standards Committee recommended and the full Board adopted "service standards" for evaualting the viability of each route. If a route does not meet certain passenger and revenue per hour goals it will be looked at. We first try to change the route and/or better promote the route before recommending elimination. Thirdly the RTA begun a marketing campaign with targeted TV advertisements and new maps etc.
The second round of cuts (based on the accurate data and service standards) will take effect August 1st and represents a 9% reduction in costs. Theses cuts have gone through the process and hearings. The third round of cuts is what is before the Service and Standards committee now. They represent a 16% reduction that includes elimination or cutting Saturday and Sunday service, eliminations or cutting three additiona routes and adjustments to the frequency of three more, and paying for the trolley service out of tourism moneies. These cuts (with the exception of the trolleys) I think will be real cuts to people getting to work. Trolley service should be paid for from tourism monies both private and public (accomodations and hospitality). We will present such a plan to the RTA Board by October 1st.
If these cuts are approved then we will have two opprotunities for passing a referendum. It took Charleston three times. The first referendum narrowly failed, the second narrowly passed but was thrown out on a legal challenge, and the third passed overwhelmimgly after CARTA was forced to cut service 85%. I hope we can avoid the later. Thanks