Sunday, February 14 , 2016, 3:49 pm | Fair 74º

Santa Barbara Residents Not on Board with Potential Cuts in MTD Bus Service

Dozens of people appear before the board to protest proposals for reducing routes if federal funding falls short

Santa Barbara resident Hathor Hammett urges the Metropolitan Transit District board not to cut the Crosstown Shuttle, which serves Westside, downtown and Eastside neighborhoods, during Wednesday night’s meeting to discuss proposals for reducing services 30 percent by January if federal funding doesn’t materialize.
Santa Barbara resident Hathor Hammett urges the Metropolitan Transit District board not to cut the Crosstown Shuttle, which serves Westside, downtown and Eastside neighborhoods, during Wednesday night’s meeting to discuss proposals for reducing services 30 percent by January if federal funding doesn’t materialize.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Santa Barbara residents spoke loud and clear Wednesday night: Metropolitan Transit District bus route cuts must be avoided at all costs.

Some of MTD’s annual federal funding is being withheld while the Department of Labor looks into allegations that the new pension reform laws infringe on the rights of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 186 to collectively bargain. Many other California cities are facing the same issues with their transportation grants, with $1.2 billion held up in total, according to MTD assistant general manager Jerry Estrada.

Every driver, mechanic and utility worker at MTD is a member of Local 186.

MTD is fighting for the $2.3 million owed from last year, before the pension reform was enacted, and hopes to get a favorable ruling for the current year’s funding of $4.8 million. If the money isn’t received soon, MTD expects to cut services 30 percent by January. That’s 60,000 out of about 200,000 service hours, Estrada said.

To see both proposed options for cuts — which would eliminate almost all weekend services and midday weekday service — click here to go to MTD’s website or scroll down.

Board president Dave Davis said the district’s intent is to enhance services, not make such a huge cut, but everything depends on the federal funding. He said Wednesday night’s turnout gave the board an idea of the cross-section of riders who use the buses as their primary form of transportation.

The board announced Wednesday that there will be three more public meetings on the proposed cuts. The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. July 29 in the Council Chambers at Carpinteria City Hall, 5775 Carpinteria Ave.; at 3 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St.; and at 2 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. Click here for more information.

On Wednesday, dozens of people came out to protest the cuts and to urge MTD, local legislators and the community at large to fight for the money to get released.

Santa Barbara resident Hathor Hammett encouraged everyone to talk to representatives and the Department of Labor’s Ann Comer.

“Let’s just flood these guys,” she said.

Undergraduate and graduate students at UCSB depend on the buses to get to classes and weekend tutoring, jobs or lab experiments, according to UCSB doctoral candidate Esther Trujillo. She said graduate students make up 3 percent, or 3,200, of MTD’s ridership, and many of them use the 24x route (an express bus to campus) to get to Isla Vista from downtown Santa Barbara. She suggested that some of the routes be combined to keep service going to campus on the weekends.

Kristian Whittaker, an advocate with UCSB’s student government, noted that a portion of student fees go toward MTD, and that there are many non-traditional students who attend classes and work outside of normal weekday hours.

Olivia Uribe, speaking for the Latino Democrats, asked the MTD board to consider using reserve funds or reallocating capital project funds instead of cutting services, while waiting for the Department of Labor to make a decision.

Someone else suggested that the board cut all routes to be less frequent, but not eliminate entire days of service.

Frequent MTD rider Frank Hernandez said he was concerned that the proposed cuts would lead to even more crowded buses, with people packed into aisles.

“When you ride the subway in New York, you worry about getting knifed,” Hernandez said. “When you ride the bus in Santa Barbara, you worry about somebody falling on you.”

The buses are the only source of transportation for many of the people who spoke out, including seniors, workers without cars, college students and the disabled.

According to some commenters, residents in the area of St. Vincent’s Gardens and Villa Caridad on Calle Real oftentimes don’t have cars, since there isn’t enough parking for everyone to have one. Many senior residents use the buses daily, and use them on the weekend for errands and getting to church, said Christine Mill, a member of the St. Vincent’s residence council.

“We are very concerned about our residents,” she said.

Residents and workers at Hillside House and Devereux all urged the MTD board not to eliminate all weekend service.

Several people expressed concern about cutting mid-day and weekend service to the bus lines that serve the hospitals, clinics and other medical office areas. Not only is Cottage Health System one of the major employers in town, one commenter noted, but health care is available seven days a week, so there are patients and employees who need to get there even on Saturdays and Sundays.

Then there are the workers who need early-morning service and weekend service.

Zoila Cabrera, speaking through a translator, said she and a lot of other cooks would be impacted since they are already working at restaurants by 7 every morning.

“It’s the same with hotels,” she said. “We clock in at 6:30 a.m. out back where you all don’t really see us.”

Keeping the bus service is essential for working families and their children who go to school, she said.

The next three meetings will be held before the proposals go to the MTD board Aug. 20 for a decision, assuming the money doesn’t materialize.

MTD board members also urged members of the public to contact their legislators and the Department of Labor’s Comer on this issue. Comer can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 202.693.1193. Her mailing address is U.S. Department of Labor, Francis Perkins Building, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  Transit Talk Package by Giana Magnoli

» on 07.25.13 @ 07:44 AM

Anti-union speak here: Any and all UNIONS should be dematerialized. I have been screwed over by the grocers union several times and the teamsters can SUCK it!

» on 07.25.13 @ 08:03 AM

Here we go again. 

The social big government advocates not only asking for tax supported extras but demanding it, are at it again. (isn’t that a bit insensitive?)

The plan was and is to create (in this case buses) services that cannot be supported by any wildest imagination with user fees (fare box income).  In fat times extra routes and buses were put in place to support high density development (look to last paragraph).  Development that congests streets and parking and run down a city.  It was predicted over a decade ago this was an long term nightmare that could not sustain itself (little used routes and shuttles).  Routes that break the back of taxpayers ability to pay.

The game now is (and this is a direct quote from an anti car advocate), if even “one” person of color, income issues, and more is inconvenienced by the taking of any bloated routes it is “discrimination”!!!

To heck with the fact “...MTD’s annual federal funding is being withheld….” is tax money taken by government.  To heck this is an ever expanding government.  California is now at the top of tax burden on residents.  When does it stop?

“According to some commenters, residents in the area of St. Vincent’s Gardens and Villa Caridad on Calle Real oftentimes don’t have cars, since there isn’t enough parking for everyone to have one.”  This is NOT an accident and was and is directly part of an urban plan laid out by people like former Mayor Blum, and city of SB planners like Weiss.  Both how have proven through statement and deed are intentionally anti car.

It is a PR Game people and it is your money at stake.

» on 07.25.13 @ 09:04 AM

Another good example of the consequences of unions making exorbitant demands and getting their way.

Now MTD can’t operate without the union and they can’t pay the expense of he MTD system, including the union pay and benefits, without tax-payer subsidy - which the union is now holding up!

What a mess.

» on 07.25.13 @ 09:14 AM

jrockofs- Labor Unions NOT GOVERNMENT UNIONS were formed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to help the workers live. The employers at the time were taking advantage of the workers by extremly low pay, extremely long hours of work,  not safe work places and other items. Labor Unions have helped keep wages for construction industry out of the basement, started the 40 work week, gave the employers a message you pay a fair wage and we will give you a good day’s work. For many years Labor Unions supported many familys.
Today with employers keeping wages low, not hiring people and having those whom are employed work longer hours people will somehow band together for better conditions. Again I am talking only about Labor unions NOT government unions

» on 07.25.13 @ 10:32 AM

If MTD raised their bus fares 30% they would not have to cut services. If they cancelled the State Street and Waterfront shuttles, which do not serve commuters, They could save $800,000. Santa Barbara Old Town Trolley Company, which is a privately owned non- government transit provider, operates a free trolley service from the waterfront to Paseo Nuevo to La Cumbre Plaza. The service is paid for by the Chumash Casino which advertises on the trolley. Private transit operators can do a better job at a lower cost than MTD.

» on 07.25.13 @ 11:29 AM

A correction to my last comment: MTD would have to raise their fares 100% to make up for the loss of federal money. Currently rider fares provide only 30% of MTD’s income. Federal money accounts for 30%. Another point: MTD claims that bus service reduces automobile traffic by providing an alternative to car commuting. But most of the people quoted in the article need the MTD because they don’t have cars or licenses. The claim by MTD that transit services reduce automobile usage is a lie.

» on 07.25.13 @ 04:05 PM

These workers are overpaid and under worked..No surprise..
Cuts are needed in all departments in Government, say 40% cut in wages, staff size, perks and time off would be a great start.

Calif is full of city’s and counties just like Detroit.

Thanks the Democrat puppets or shills put in charge by unions.

» on 07.26.13 @ 06:06 AM

12345: I think that the shuttles do more or less pay for themselves, with a bit of gouging by the city council of the Waterfront Department of $40K for the balance on the theory that they are needed for the cruise ship visitors.

It seems very clear that this MTD crisis is Teamsters-driven. And it is ironic that those who will be most hurt are those who, generally, are union supporters.

» on 07.29.13 @ 06:02 AM

George- When i was greeted by the union reps for the Grocers union they told me all kinds of things, we will get you better pay, they wont be able to fire you, we will get you promoted we will fight for you, 2 years later still in the same position, i got fired called them the union…. I said I got fired, they said sorry cant help you “click” so the union in all of its corruption can SUCK IT! Then the Teamsters are another sack of crap entity, That’s just my opinion, I will and will always hate unions. I paid a crap load of money into them, and i get nothing absolutely nothing in return other then being called a scab because i hate them so much and i was willing to work.

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