RT Looking at Another Round of Cuts

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 27, 2009

By: Steffi Broski and Ben Adler

Earlier Monday, the federal government announced that RT will get nearly $23 million in economic stimulus funds. So why won’t that money prevent the cuts?

RT adopted its current budget just a few weeks ago. But sales tax revenues continue to fall, so RT is now proposing a new round of service cuts to offset a $2.4 million deficit. They include eliminating light rail trains after 9 p.m. and reducing service on 36 bus routes. Many busses would stop running before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Sean Goebel is waiting for the bus at the 65th Street Light Rail Station. He takes the light rail and bus five days a week to get to work, and says the new cuts would hurt.
Goebel: “There will probably be a lot of people getting fired, a lot of people getting late to school, a lot of people getting very, very mad.”
RT General Manager Mike Wiley says he’s looking everywhere for alternatives to the service cuts. But not RT’s economic stimulus funds.  Wiley says they come with too many strings attached.
Wiley: “We would love to have all of the money we receive from the various sources, state, local, federal sources, be very flexible and allow us to spend it on our highest priorities. Unfortunately, that’s not how the money comes to us.”
He says the biggest chunk of the federal money is allocated for preventative maintenance and retrofitting light rail vehicles. Only a small percentage could be spent on operating costs.
That’s bad news for Lori Davis, who takes RT from her Rancho Cordova home to night school in Sacramento.
Davis: “I would have no alternative. I don’t drive, my husband doesn’t drive. I would have no alternative. Period.”
Davis says she might have to quit school if RT’s board approves the service cuts next month.