San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, the region's mass transit system that covers 3240 square miles for approximately three million residents, is forced to streamline operations by about $13 million dollars. The agency blames the deficit on a loss of State Transit Assistance funding, fewer riders, and decreased revenues from sales tax. To make up or the $13 million shortage, on January 7, during a board of directors meeting, board members agreed to trim $7 million in service routes by eliminating Sunday bus routes and an overall reduction in frequency on Saturdays and Sundays beginning on February 28. The rest of the deficit will be paid for by one-time reserve funds.
"The [Metropolitan Transit System] Board of Directors did not want to consider an increase in monthly pass prices or cash fares. [Metropolitan Transit System] has already increased fares three times in the last two years. The only other way to balance the budget is by reducing expenses," read a recent news release.
According to the agency's website, other options included eliminating weekday and Saturday routes. Instead they opted to reduce rates on what they say, in terms of riders, is the slowest day of the week. On an average weekday, approximately 274,000 people hop on a bus, trolley, or train. On Sundays, that number is nearly cut in half, to 145,000 riders. The agency also says that many people who ride on Sundays are out on "discretionary trips."
To assure residents that reducing weekend routes and route frequency was a last resort, the agency posted other cost-saving initiatives they have adopted in recent years on their website: "[Metropolitan Transit System] over the last three years has reduced management staff by 20 percent, eliminated pay increases and benefits, renegotiated union contracts, consolidated contracts to run bus operations more efficiently, increased advertising and other non-fare revenues, raised fares and decreased service. All of the decisions have been painful, particularly for the customers of MTS."
And while reducing routes and using one-time reserve funds have solved this year's budget, it does not address next year’s budget, leaving many riders curious if new fare increases are on the way. According to the website, however, "There is no consideration at this time to raise fares for monthly passes or cash fares. The Budget Development Committee determined that [Metropolitan Transit System] riders have done their share by absorbing three fare increases over the last two years to help make up for the loss of sales tax revenues."
To get to the agency's website, go to sdcommute.com and click on "Proposed Service Changes."