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Regional Transit board cuts: slower light rail, fewer buses

Dozens of bus routes in the Sacramento region will vanish and light rail will slow down on the weekends as a result of sweeping Regional Transit budget cuts. The agency’s board of directors slashed bus, light rail and paratransit service Monday night to resolve a $10.6 million deficit.

One of the major budget fixes scales back night service seven days per week. The RT board decided that light rail, bus and paratransit trips that now begin after 9 p.m. will cease.

Public transportation will also be slower on weekends. Right now, light rail picks up passengers in 15-minute cycles during the weekend. The cuts mean that riders can catch the light rail every 30 minutes on weekends, explained Mike Wiley, RT’s general manager and CEO.

Cuts will take effect June 20.

While the board cut paratransit trips that begin after 9 p.m., that decision could be changed. Board Member Don Nottoli asked RT staff to look into ways that paratransit riders could take later rides.

Some paratransit riders expressed concern at the Monday meeting that they could be left on the street if they were out late.

Pamela Ross of Sacramento said that she takes paratransit late at night when she comes home from summer vacations. Ross, who uses a wheelchair and has two service animals, was worried that she wouldn’t have a paratransit ride home from the train station. She said she “really didn’t want to sleep in the train station at night.”

RT works with a private firm, Paratransit, Inc., to provide transit service for disabled residents.

The cuts yield $11.7 million, nearly $1 million more than the deficit, Wiley said. That extra million provides “wiggle room,” he said.

Wiley said that million-dollar cushion could be necessary because there are many assumptions in RT’s budget plans. The agency previously had a $25 million deficit, he said. The deficit number changed because recent state legislation moved $11.8 million to the agency. Before Monday, RT made more cuts and also found some new revenue opportunities, Wiley said. The state money, new revenue possibilities and new cuts brought the deficit down to $10.6 million, he explained.

However, the numbers are not set in stone, Wiley said. The new revenue possibilities — which include funds RT is hoping to receive from the federal government — will need to pan out.

An RT report for Monday’s meeting said the following weekday bus routes will disappear: 4, 8, 9, 10, 18, 20, 36, 50E, 63, 73, 83, 89, 94, 95, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 107, 141, 142, 200, 201, 210, 226, 251, 261

The report states that the following Saturday routes will end: 5, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16, 24, 28, 54, 61, 65, 74, 143

The following Sunday routes will stop service: 8, 13, 14, 22

Some bus routes will also have slower service on weekends.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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