Thursday, September 12, 2013

BikeWalkLee urges Lee County Commissioners to reject proposed transit service cuts

On Sept. 12th, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to BoCC members opposing the proposed transit service cuts.  The Board will discuss this proposal at its Monday's (9/16) M and P meeting (1:30 p.m.).  Then on  Wed, 9/18) there's one last opportunity for public input at the final public hearing on the budget, which starts at 5:05 p.m. in the commission chambers.  Immediately following the public comment period, the BoCC will vote to adopt the final budget. Let the commissioners know now that transit is important to this community and urge them to reject these proposed service cuts!

9/20/13--Lee MPO Board discussion

 At the Sept. 20th MPO Board meeting, BikeWalkLee's Dan Moser and Margaret Banyan continued to raise our concerns about the impact of this decision on the MPO's commitment to a balanced multi-modal transportation system, and recommended the creation of a transit authority. 

 Fort Myers City Councilmember, Mike Flanders, requested that the MPO Board be updated on the transit authority issue at its November meeting, and this was agreed to by the Board.  During the LeeTran monthly report to the MPO Board, Steve Myers said that LeeTran will be monitoring the impacts of reduced services and will monitor ridership on those routes with reduced evening services and will report back to the BoCC.   

While BikeWalkLee is disappointed that the Board voted to cut LeeTran evening services, we are appreciative of the Board's decision on Sept. 4th to maintain both Route 60 (FGCU/San Carlos Park) and Route 100 (Pine Island). 

Thanks to all the citizens and organizations who wrote the commissioners and spoke at the two public hearings in support of maintaining LeeTran services and routes.

9/19/13--Final BoCC Action
On 9/18/13, Lee BoCC voted to retain the proposed transit service cuts and adopted the budget for next year (vote 4-1). 

News-Press article 9/19/13: "With reservations, Lee County budget OK'd"
News-Press article 9/17/13:  "LeeTran needs miracles to keep all service"
Naples Daily News article 9/4/13: 
Lee County Board of Commissioners
2120 SW Main Street
Fort Myers, FL  33901

Dear Commissioners:

BikeWalkLee opposes the proposed $500,000 in reduction to the LeeTran budget and the accompanying service reductions, effectively halving evening and weekend service and extending intervals between buses to as long as 2 hours. Not only would such cuts be counter to all previous BoCC actions, but this current proposal represents poor business decision making, and lacks fiscal sense.

Analysis of current and future revenue sources indicates that for every dollar cut from LeeTrans’s budget in order to ‘save’ money the County will actually lose an equal amount of outside funding – a senseless dollar-for-dollar loss.

 We all know of the enormous and sustained increases in LeeTran ridership, and we also know of the numerous state-wide and national recognitions awarded to LeeTran - probably more numerous than any single department within Lee County.  

With each quarterly report we heard new statistics profiling LeeTran’s extraordinary successes - not once in a while, but consistently and repeatedly. This success didn’t happen by chance, but was the result of thoughtful planning and committed work on the part of the BoCC and county staff.

With an annual budget of only $13 million LeeTran was awarded:
·        $20 million in federal discretionary money
·        nearly another $7 million in federal ARRA grant money
·        and named The Florida Transit System of the Year in 2012, recognition for system wide performance

These awards were based on LeeTran’s excellence in business planning and implementation, backed by the BoCC’s stalwart commitment to hold transit harmless. These merit-based awards required no county matching funds and were in addition to the significant state funding from FDOT.

Not only has LeeTran garnered far more than its share of awards, grants and accolades, its success is very much a part of this County’s overall transportation system – a system that serves all resident not just those with ready access to cars. 

LeeTran’s strong business practices and its integral role in our county’s complete streets program have enabled success to build upon success in the awarding of a number of other community betterment grants to Lee County. Just the latest example of this is the USDOT TIGER grant, a portion of which is designated to fund LeeTran infrastructure, furthering successful multi-modal system integration and service delivery to the residents of Lee County. 

The functional viability of any transit system hinges on two primary qualities:  1) punctuality or reliability and 2) the waiting time between buses or headway time. Making these indefensible cutbacks in service, as reflected in the enormous headway extensions after 6:00 p.m. and on Saturday, will thoroughly undermine the system and preclude future success. This is not a sound business-sense approach. This is a starvation mechanism that will weaken the entire transit system, eventually driving it to substandard performance with decline in efficiency and ridership, virtually guaranteeing a very poor outcome.

Transit is most akin to public utilities such as water and power; its integrity rests in the continuity of access. Unlike some other government expenses, the nature of a transit system cannot accommodate stopping and starting of service without long-term, wholesale functional damage.

LeeTran’s success is a vital part of this area’s growing reputation as one that is on a clear path to a more sustainable, livable, high-quality of life, making Lee County and SW Florida an internationally appealing place to live, conduct business and thrive.

How wise is it for government to now step in to undermine (inadvertently or not) the integrity of LeeTran’s ability to remain a viable service provider? BikeWalkLee believes this is a profoundly ill-conceived business decision. The projected financial savings of only $500,000 will translate into a substantially greater and enduring loss for Lee County.

/s/Ann Pierce
on behalf of BikeWalkLee

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