CA: AC Transit to Avoid Service Cuts After All

AC Transit won't need to cut bus service after all in the coming fiscal year because its bleak financial condition has improved, transit system operators declared Monday.

A month ago, AC Transit had considered service cuts probable because the district projected a $14.9 million budget deficit by the end of the fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Now the financial forecast is much brighter, with a $2.3 million surplus projected.

AC Transit managers attributed the turnaround to a combination of cost cutting, workforce reductions and efficiency changes, plus a rosier outlook for sales tax revenues in an improving economy.

"This is good news about our ability to maintain services to the public," said AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson. "The change is due partly to recent initiatives the district has made to reduce costs, and partly to having more time to analyze our financial condition."

Because of the change, AC Transit is canceling a Wednesday public hearing on declaring the district in a "fiscal emergency." This procedural step would have streamlined cutting service.

Johnson said the turnaround occurred so fast because AC has made cost-cutting decisions within the past year -- some within the past few weeks and months. The district also needed more time to quantify the savings from a new labor contract agreed on last fall, he added.

Among other changes, AC Transit decided to close its Richmond bus yard, and to contract out operation of its paratransit van service to a private company.

The district also will eliminate 54 jobs in the coming fiscal year, with 20 of them being management positions and 34 of them for clerks, mechanics and technicians, according to the report to the board.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff . Read the Capricious Commuter at IBAbuzz.com/transportation .

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