Laketran’s Service Restoration Hinges on Passage of Transportation Bill
Lake County, OH —-The dramatic cuts in local public transportation services put into effect last July could be reversed pending passage of the Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010 (S. 3412). The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced the bill, which authorizes $2 billion in emergency transit operating assistance for systems across the country. Eighty percent of those funds would be allocated through the Section 5307 Urbanized Area formula program. This would place Laketran in a position to potentially garner almost $1 million in operating assistance – enough to restore all of the service cuts implemented in July 2009.
The service reductions in July of 2009 included the elimination of all local fixed route and complementary paratransit services Monday through Friday after 7 pm and on Saturdays. The reductions also included elimination of all services on Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, effectively leaving many working commuters and students stranded on those dates. The service cuts left countless numbers of seniors and individuals with disabilities unable to access basic necessities such as groceries and medical care, and eliminated quality of life socialization and recreational access as well. In addition to the service cuts, Laketran reduced operating expenses by 13%, implemented salary and wage freezes, and layoffs of essential union and non-union employees.
“While we strongly urge our senators to support this bill, we have to acknowledge that this funding must serve as a bridge for future authorization for transit so that we are not left with only a band-aid solution,” cautions Laketran Board President Kevin Malecek. “This legislative initiative should be the springboard to the passage of a multi-year, comprehensive transportation bill with sustainable funding for the services that this bill can potentially restore.”
Laketran, like all Ohio systems, has faced reductions in funding from the State of Ohio by 75 percent over the last ten years – a funding blow exacerbated by reductions in sales tax revenues in 2009 and the first half of 2010 due to the sluggish economy. When Laketran cut services in 2009, the agency also implemented a fare increase and began pursuing non-traditional revenue dollars such as Medicaid and waiver reimbursements, and program grant dollars. “While the fare increase and these alternative revenue streams have helped Laketran stave off further service reductions, they are not capable of generating enough revenue to restore the services that are vital to so many of our senior citizens, students and working families to be able to get to work, education and basic services each day,” commented Jurkowski. “Sustainable funding would allow us to meet local and national goals for sustainable development and lifestyles in our community.”
Restoration of services would not only mean job access for many citizens, but restoration of jobs for laid off union employees as well. “Laketran drivers take great pride in providing professional and compassionate service to our citizens, especially our seniors and those with disabilities. Being able to bring people back to jobs that they need and enjoy is a win-win for the community,” notes Rich DeGraff, Chairman of the UAW, Local 1834. “Service cuts hurt everyone, but most often those who need our help the most. Laketran drivers are often the eyes and ears in our community, not only ensuring our passengers get to their destinations safely, but keeping watch over our most frail citizens.”
The Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010 is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menedez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Laketran urges all citizens to contact their senators in support of this bill.