CHT is conducting an on-board passenger survey designed to cover such topics as convenience of routes, service levels and availability of information. The feedback is intended to help the town “improve” bus service.
By “improve” the town means downgrade or eliminate routes that have the least ridership (or least vocal ridership) as a way to help cut costs. So some riders who fill out and turn in the surveys will be casting a vote on whether the very route they enjoyed while filling out the form will continue or, at the least, become less frequent.
The manager’s budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, plans to discontinue the Shared Rider/Feeder services, which provide service to areas that do not receive regular evening or Sunday bus service. There’s talk about eliminating the M route, which goes from Carrboro to downtown and out to University Mall and the public library, and adjusting the HS, RU, NS, CCX, NU and F routes.
Cost efficiencies are always welcome, especially in a tight budget year when the town will have to dip into its reserve funds so it can hand out $800 bonuses to town workers while increasing their health care costs. But people who missed the bus or were out of town during the survey may be in for a big surprise the next time they walk over to the nearest bus stop to wait for the express.
Transit costs will siphon more than $17.4 million from the town budget next year. And the manager is looking uneasily at the budgets that will follow this one. Federal assistance is expected to decline by as much as 7 percent next fiscal year, and federal operating grants have been eliminated. While state assistance could increase, I wouldn’t count on it. Looks like it could be a bumpy road for town bus service.
The town characterizes the survey as “an effort to provide better service to its valued customers.” Anybody have any suggestions for how to reduce transit costs or find alternative sources of funding? The town manager and CHT sure could use them.
All this was discussed at two public forums on Monday at the Chapel Hill Bible Church. If you missed them and want to learn more, you can contact CHT at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-969-4900.