WA: Twin Transit Moves Forward With Service Reduction Options

June 20--With an increase in paratransit riders beginning to financially burden Twin Transit, the public transportation provider is now considering two options to balance its budget.

The Twin Transit Authority Board agreed on Thursday to pursue two service reduction options.

One option is to cut the recently implemented Capital Commuter route to Tumwater and all service on Sunday. The other option cuts all Sunday service, cuts Route 12 in Chehalis on Saturday, adds a second bus to Route 22 in west Centralia and reduces all second buses to nine hours.

"Those will be the two options we will solicit public comment on," Twin Transit General Manager Rob LaFontaine said. "(The board) will revisit the items at their July 17 meeting. That will be where they could take action."

Twin Transit will welcome public comment over the next 30 days regarding the service cuts. The board will then considered the comments and approve one of the two options.

The first option, cutting the Tumwater route and Sunday service, will save Twin Transit $206,489 annually. The second option saves $159,082 annually.

"Cutting service is never a (positive), but we are trying to be as transparent as possible," LaFontaine said. "We are required by law to have a balanced budget."

Twin Transit's 2014 budget is over about $100,000 to $116,000 compared to last year, according to LaFontaine. The additional costs are based on more resources being used for the paratransit service, a door-to-door pick-up for people with disabilities. Each paratransit ride cost Twin Transit $27, compared to $5 for a regular fixed-route. Twin Transit is providing more than 1,000 paratransit rides per month, an increase from about 800 per month last year.

Twin Transit's primary funding source is a 0.2 percent local transit sales tax. It is not a county wide taxing district, rather the taxing boundaries are limited to the incorporated city limits of both Centralia and Chehalis, according to Twin Transit.

"Twin Transit is a healthy organization, but like a lot of public organizations we are challenged with revenue," LaFontaine said. "We are primarily sales tax funded and sales taxes have rebounded decently since the recession. All and all, we offer quality service for our community at a reasonable price."

While Twin Transit finds ways to balance its budget and meet ridership demands, LaFontaine said, he is pleased with the amount of riders using the local service.

In May, Twin Transit recorded 24,000 riders, which is the highest number of riders in more than two years.

"There is a larger market for public transit in this community," LaFontaine said.

Copyright 2014 - The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash.