If the residents of Bellefonte have a word for the projected cuts to CATA bus service, it would simply be “ridiculous.”
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Brenda Reichert, 53, of Bellefonte, said during a public input meeting hosted by Centre Area Transportation Authority representatives Thursday at the Bellefonte YMCA. “I think they need to think of the people of Bellefonte — the handicapped, the seniors, the disabled. A lot of people depend on that service.”
The proposed cuts to CATA’s XB (Bellefonte) and XG (Pleasant Gap) lines followed Borough Council’s refusal in June to pay the CATA budgeted amount for services in 2015-16. Council voted unanimously to pay about $17,900, about $3,600 short of the $21,505 CATA had placed in its budget for service.
The budget includes a capital cost and an operational cost, said CATA’s board of directors chairman, John Spychalski. Every municipality that funds CATA service includes those two costs.
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The operational cost covers routine costs like paying for fuel, wages and salaries, he said. The capital cost is to match the capital funding of the state and the Federal Transit Administration.
“If CATA doesn’t get the local capital match, we can’t get either state or federal money,” he said. “So if you want buses to operate or a maintenance facility to maintain those buses, we’ve got to get the capital money.”
Scott Hazel, 49, of Bellefonte, said he uses the bus service five times a week to get back and forth to State College for work. If the bus service is cut, he has no backup for getting around — even taxi service back and forth is about $60, he said.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the borough won’t pay the three grand so we can at least work,” he said.
Reichert raised the point that the bus service also brings people into the borough as well as takes them out. Since parking is so tight in the borough, many use the bus to get to events like the Cruise and the Arts and Crafts Fair.
“They want people to come here,” she said, “but they want to take out the public transportation?”
CATA representatives spent the open house seeking riders’ opinions on two service cut options — elimination of four weekday trips, or elimination of three weekday trips and all Saturday trips. This second option would also eliminate CATARide service on Saturdays in Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap. The option taken will go into effect Oct. 5.
CATA General Manager Louwana Oliva said the payment shortages were in both the operational and capital costs. Since there’s no way to recoup the capital costs, the payment filled that cost first, so the deficit shifted to the operational.
The formula used is based on the number of miles a municipality uses, she said. Since the funding only reached a certain level, service had to be reduced by a certain number of miles.
“If you looked at the ridership, Saturday would be the obvious choice,” she said. “Saturday has low ridership. But what we’ve heard from the riders and also the drivers was ... even though the numbers are lower on Saturday, it could have a real detrimental effect on people.”
Reichert said Saturday service should not be cut, saying it wouldn’t be right to cut the CATARide services for the seniors.
Hazel also said he preferred the first option, saying cutting off Saturday service would prevent a lot of people from getting to their jobs and put a lot of people out of work.
Oliva said she was thrilled by the turnout Thursday and that CATA would be taking input on the service cuts through the end of next week.