SamTrans staying on fiscal scheduleBy Sarah Haughey
After the state eliminated its state transit assistance funds, all Bay Area transit agencies were forced to reduce service and increase fares, efforts that have produced fewer riders and less revenue.
While no new budget cuts have occurred this year, SamTrans is still taking steps to reduce costs, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.
"We decreased service last year, but have not had to reduce this year," Dunn said. "We have been able to hold the line so far this year."
Following a $28.4 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2009-10, SamTrans was forced to make cutbacks in operating costs. Last year, SamTrans eliminated 60 positions, 45 of which came through layoffs. Others were vacant positions that were not cut. This year, SamTrans continues to have a hiring freeze and a salary freeze, as well as mandatory furlough days, Dunn said.
On Dec. 20, the countywide transit agency eliminated 7.5 percent of service, including all but one of the SamTrans express routes to San Francisco, according to an agency report.
To discuss service reductions, SamTrans held a series of community meetings to determine which route eliminations would have the least possible impact on commuters. According to Dunn, the routes that were eliminated had the lowest ridership rates or were those that had duplicate services.
"These folks had other ways of getting to San Francisco, either on BART or Caltrain," Dunn said. "We tried to preserve service for those who were transit-dependent."
Despite community involvement, average weekday ridership has steadily decreased over the past two years - from 48,601 in June 2008 to 41,173 in June of this year, Dunn said.
Beginning Feb. 1, SamTrans implemented new fares, increasing the adult local fare 25 cents to $2 and the express one-way fare 50 cents to $5, according to a January report. Eligible discount cash fares and youth fares both increased by 25 cents.
Passenger fares, including an additional half-cent sales tax, account for 18 percent of the total cost needed to operate buses and trains, Dunn said.
"Fares are a small portion of putting trains and buses in service," Dunn said. "With the way things are right now across the state, we are living on a year-to-year basis so we don't know what the next year will bring. The future is impossible to predict."
Get on the bus
How SamTrans has dealt with its budget problems.
SamTrans average weekday ridership
- June 2010: 41,173
- June 2009: 44,719
- June 2008: 48,601
- June 2007: 46,313
New fares (took effect Feb. 1)
- Adult local fare: $2 (25-cent increase)
- Express cash one-way: $5 (50-cent increase)
- Eligible discount cash fare: $1 (25-cent increase)
- Youth fare: $1.25 (25-cent increase)
- Paratransit: $3.50 (50-cent increase, took effect July 1)
- Lifeline: $1.75 (25-cent increase, took effect July 1)
- Fare increase will help close a $28.4 million budget shortfall
- Passenger fares cover approximately 18 percent of operating cost
- Last fare increase was February 2009
Service reductions (implemented Dec. 20)
- 7.5 percent reduction in service
- Elimination of 6 express routes to San Francisco and one local route
- Reduction in frequency of service on six routes
- Addition of Route 359, connecting Foster City and San Francisco
- 45 employees, including administrative staff and bus operators, were laid off
- Administrative employees had salaries frozen and given six mandatory furlough days
Copyright ©2010 San Francisco Examiner. Published 08/14/2010.