Bus riders in Lodi might notice a reduction in service starting in November because the city must slash $373,000 from its transit services to deal with cuts in state funding.
Some of the items on the chopping block include all weekend service, Dial-a-Ride same day service and any weekday fixed route service before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m., according to a city staff report.
Lodi resident Tom Baker can still drive and does not have to take the bus, but he does it for the convenience and cheap prices. He often drops off vehicles to be repaired in Galt for his business, Baker's Heating and Air Conditioning, and then takes the Lodi bus back.
On Monday afternoon, while waiting for his wife to come pick him up from the Downtown Lodi bus station, he said the cuts wouldn't affect him directly, but he knows of many seniors, especially in their 80s and 90s, who depend on public transportation.
"The elderly use it to go to the doctor or shopping, and they don't have any other way to get there and no one to take them, and that's the unfortunate part," Baker said.
Candy Ramirez rode from Stockton and was waiting for her connecting bus in Lodi to visit family in Galt. She said cuts in weekend service could affect visits to see her parents. She has epilepsy, and while she wishes she didn't have to depend on the bus, it's her only form of transportation if she cannot walk or get a ride.
"I wish I could depend on myself, but I'm not going to get in a car, have a seizure and kill a family. … Can't they do something else that doesn't affect the necessary services?" Ramirez said.
The Lodi City Council will discuss the cuts for the first time at its shirtsleeve meeting at 7 a.m. today in Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St. The city is hoping to get feedback from bus riders at public meetings on Thursday and on Oct. 15.
On Oct. 21, the council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. in Carnegie Forum to hear comments from residents on the proposed changes and possibly vote on the cuts.
City staff will also be interviewing people boarding some of the weekday morning and evening routes and the weekend routes scheduled for cancellation to see how the changes could affect them, Public Works Director Wally Sandelin said.
About a month ago, the city was told that when the state passed its budget it included deep cuts to local transit, Sandelin said. The cuts translated to Lodi needing to reduce its transit budget for the year by 20 percent, or about $443,000.
For the first four months of the fiscal year, which started July 1, the city's transit costs were already $70,000 less than budgeted. To cut the additional $373,000 remaining, staff is recommending the proposed cuts start Nov. 1, and continue for the rest of the eight months in the fiscal year.
While she hasn't studied in detail the city's recommendations, Ann Areida-Hintz, the city's senior services coordinator, said she can see where some of the changes might affect how seniors travel around town.
One of the main cuts that could affect seniors and those with disabilities is changes to the Dial-a-Ride service and VineLine service. Both pick up residents at their home, and people can schedule rides ahead of time or call the same day they need service. The difference between the two routes is Dial-a-Ride provides service to everyone, while VineLine is for customers that require Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant services.
Most of Lodi's seniors have gotten "savvy" about not using same-day Dial-A-Ride service because it is more expensive, Areida-Hintz said.
But if the city requires reservations, she is worried about what would happen in an emergency if a senior had a high fever and needed to see the doctor.
On Sundays, some seniors might plan on the transportation system to get to church, she said.
"We have a great Dial-a-Ride system, and seniors are grateful for what they have. But I could see where it could be a hardship. We have seniors who cannot make it to the bus stop and depend on that Dial-a-Ride service, so we don't want to see too many changes," Areida-Hintz said.
Meetings at a glance
The city will have several public meetings to discuss the proposed budget cuts.
— 10 a.m. Thursday at the LOEL Center, 105 S. Washington St.
— 8 a.m. Oct. 15 at Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St. The city's Senior Commission will be holding the meeting.
— 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine Street. This will be a Lodi City Council public hearing, and the council will be able to vote on the cuts at this meeting.
Options to save money
Here are some of the options the Lodi City Council will discuss at its shirtsleeve meeting today. All of the savings are estimates and calculated for the eight months that remain in the fiscal year, which started July 1.
Eliminate Saturday and Sunday service for fixed routes and Dial-a-Ride service
This would eliminate all bus service on the weekends because the city's Express Routes already only run on weekdays.
Of the 254,000 passengers annually who ride on the fixed routes:
— About 4.6 percent, or 11,684 passengers, ride on Saturdays.
— About 3.6 percent, or 9,144 passengers, ride on Sundays.
Reduce fixed route services to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The city's current fixed routes operate from 6:15 a.m. until 6:54 p.m.
Of the annual 254,000 passengers:
— About 13 percent, or 33,020 customers, ride between 6:15 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.
— About 9.3 percent, or 23,633 customers, ride between 5 p.m. and 6:54 p.m.
The new service would be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. One option for morning riders will be to use one of Lodi's three Express Routes, which will continue to operate on the current schedules. In the morning, the Express Routes operate from 6:10 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and are mostly used by students. The city does not know how many riders would adjust their schedule to switch to the Express Routes.
Reduce Dial-a-Ride service to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The city would also change these services to the same daytime hours. Currently, 88 percent of riders on this service already travel between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Eliminate same-day service for Dial-a-Ride service
The city has buses and drivers on duty currently to provide same-day service seven days a week. Of the 53,000 Dial-a-Ride passengers, about 30 percent, or 15,900, take advantage of same-day service.
With the cuts, the city would require advanced reservations for both services. The city might be able to accommodate some people seeking same-day service if the customer could ride on a route that has already been established for the day.
Eliminate service on three holidays and on city furlough Fridays
The city would also eliminate all transit services (fixed routes, Express Routes and Dial-a-Ride) on holidays and eight furlough Fridays a year.
The furlough days would be the last Fridays of the month.
The three additional holidays are Veteran's Day on Nov. 11, the Friday after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 and Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, 2010.
Reduce operation costs
Savings: As high as $50,000.
The city will save money on fuel, cleaning and maintenance because the buses will not be in service as much.
This story was updated at 6:15 a.m. Oct. 7, 2009, to correct the address of the LOEL Center.