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^Tim Caldwell, PDN

Save Our Buses-Vote Yes for Transit

 

Voting YES on the Jefferson Transit Authority Proposition 1 February 8th special election ballot is necessary to retain the service we have come to expect.

 

I ride Jefferson Transit by choice. When I started using local transit nearly twenty years ago, it was initially a business decision.  As the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce general manager, I participated in County, City, Port and Fort Worden, short and long range economic planning. It seemed to me that every idea scrutinized for retaining and developing our local economy included the need to invest in public transportation. I felt it was part of my job description to “walk the talk,” or least ride it.

 

Riding the bus is no longer part of my job; it’s now part of my life. As a passenger, the results of the various community plans are evident. We have frequent Downtown, Uptown, and Castle Hill shuttle service that increases in ridership every year. The Tri-Area Loop is the fastest growing ridership route in Jefferson Transit’s three-county service area. And above all, we are treated to superb customer service.    

 

The cost for continuing this level of service is to add 3/10th of a cent to the sales tax of Jefferson County. The revenue will be used solely to fund the operation, maintenance and capital needs of Transit. To put this investment in perspective, the increase is equivalent to three cents on a $10 dollar purchase-or one expensive latte for every thousand dollars. Groceries and prescription drugs are not subject to this tax. Should the Transit Prop 1 not pass, the cost will be much greater.

 

Without the new funds, Sunday service, both fixed route and Dial-A-Ride, will be eliminated. Frequency of bus service hours will be reduced from 450 hours a week to 350. These service cuts will result in a workforce reduction of 4-6 personnel. In addition, Transit will not have the means of meeting the 20% required to match the 80% in Federal funds available to replace four aging buses with new more energy efficient and efficiently sized buses.

 

These cuts would come on the heels of Transit’s recently passed 2011 budget that clearly reflected the concerted effort of management and labor to respond to current economic challenges and rising costs, particularly fuel. This was achieved through non-represented staff layoffs, salary freezes, unpaid furloughs for all non-represented staff, and elimination of all non-essential service contracts. A YES vote on Transit Prop 1 will prevent additional cuts that will directly impact residents who regard Transit as a necessity, not a choice.

 

Jefferson Transit recorded over 355,000 rider trips last year and averages nearly 1,000 rider trips a day. Visitors to our county’s communities make up a portion of these statistics, but first and foremost, Transit is essential to commuters, seniors, and students who rely on public transportation to get them through their day. Riders with private transportation choices may have the flexibility to adapt to additional cuts. However, riders who cannot drive, due to physical or financial limitations, will be severely impacted. The importance of the availability of Dial-A-Ride to all who rely on it and transit service for West End residents cannot be overstated.

 

Voting YES on the Jefferson Transit Authority Proposition 1 will keep these essential services running. It will also provide one of our county’s most valuable public assets the necessary funding to continue investing in our future. Please vote YES on the Jefferson Transit Authority Proposition 1.    

 

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