Bus service will erode without fund help
Updated 4:05 pm, Friday, March 2, 2018
BRIDGEPORT — Anticipated cuts in the state’s Special Transportation Fund will leave Greater Bridgeport Transit “a ghost” of what it was a year ago, GBT CEO Doug Holcomb said Friday.
“Today, the STF is nearly out of money and the future of transit looks grim,” Holcomb said. “This creates serious problems for anyone who depends on the bus or train in Connecticut — and it affects those who drive their own cars, too.”
Holcomb said that GBT gets about 15 percent of its funding from the Special Transportation Fund. “So, without that funding, we’re looking at the loss of about 100 hours of bus service per day, out of about 550 that we now have,” he said.
The STF finances the state’s entire transportation system, including the operating costs of the Connecticut Department of Transportation as well as a number of bus transit districts, including GBT. State officials say that the fund will become insolvent when the 2018-19 fiscal year begins July 1.
A number of other transit districts in Connecticut would see cuts too, he said.
Gov. Dannel Malloy on Jan. 31 called for actions that would bring the STF back into the black. These included:
A 7 cent increase in the gas tax, gradually implemented over a four-year period
Implementation of statewide electronic tolling beginning in fiscal year 2023.
A new $3 per tire fee on tire purchases.
Holcomb said that he supported the tolls and fees, although suburban Republican legislators have been howling their opposition.
“We’re looking at a loss of funding of $1.8 million for Greater Bridgeport Transit,” said Mayor Joe Ganim Friday. “This is how tens of thousands of people get around. How are they going to get to work? How are they going to get to the doctor’s office?”
He said that mass transit is something that everyone needs — even those who never use it.
“Just think of what would happen if the 18,000 people who use GBT buses had to go out and buy a car,” Ganim said. “Think of the traffic jams. And where would everyone park?”
GBT in November 2016 suspended service on Routes 14, 16 and 20, and Holcomb said that service will continue to erode unless the Special Transportation Fund returns to solvency.
In late January, GBT also reduced the frequency of service on the Coastal Link route, one of its most popular routes. The Coastal Link route used to see a bus every 20 minutes; now it’s every half-hour.
Holcomb released maps of what the GBT route system would like if the STF funding doesn’t materialize. It shows that by 2020, the number of canceled routes would greatly outnumber those that are running now. And service would mostly be limited to Route 1 accompanied by just two north-south routes.
A bus ride now costs $1.75 and an all-day pass is $4. Holcomb said that these fares could increase to $2 and $5, respectively, if the STF isn’t restored. But even with the inflated fares, the erosion of routes would still continue, he said.