A replay of last year’s WRTA fiscal crisis is now in progress for the next fiscal year, fiscal 2019, that begins July 1, 2018. Due to the current levels of state-wide funding of all transportation authorities, and rising local expenses, the WRTA faces a $1.1 million deficit. In an attempt to deal with this situation, the WRTA Administrator, Jonathon Church, has proposed to the Advisory Board yet another round of route eliminations. The major part of the WRTA expense budget is “fixed route transit service.” Emphasis is being given to dropping routes with minimal ridership and routes to outlying towns. Towns losing service would be Oxford, Webster, Charlton, Southbridge, Spenser, Brookfield and West Brookfield (routes 29, 33 & 42). Weekend service would also be affected because weekend routes tend to have minimal ridership.
At the core of this crisis is the current state funding bill in which transportation funding is “level funded,”
that is, the same from year to year. The budget for the current fiscal year that will end this June was also level funded. Both budgets fall short by ten percent of the needs of the state’s nine transit systems. Without using precise numbers, the state budget bill is now level funded at $80 million. If it reflected true transit needs it would funded at $89 million.
A new Worcester-based group, the Transportation Advocacy Coalition (TAC), was recently formed through the leadership efforts of the Worcester Community Connections Coalition, a part of the You Inc., a local non-profit. Sarah Bertrand of the WCCC is spearheading this group. Tasks for Transit has been a part of this group since its inception.
The mission of the TAC is to advocate for reliable, safe, affordable, accessible, dependable transportation that is responsive to the needs of the greater Worcester community, particularly of low-income residents and families who depend on bus transportation, using a legitimate process that includes community voices. Jonathon Church, WRTA Administrator, is a member of the TAC and co-chairs a sub-committee of the TAC that meets monthly with actual bus riders to listen to their concerns.
With the TAC in mind, we at TFT urge you to contact your state legislators and the governor and ask them to add ten percent to the current funding level for transportation in the bill now under consideration for Massachusetts fiscal year 2019. To read an in-depth analysis of this crisis, go to this article in the online Worcester Magazine