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More blows to bus service likely

Deep cuts to service are probable for Nevada County’s bus system to make up a projected deficit of $480,000 in the current $2.9 million budget, according to Public Works Director Doug Farrell.

Despite cuts that have battered bus service during the 2009-10 fiscal year, radical changes are being pondered for the future, Gold Country Stage Transit Services Manager Susan Healy-Harman said Wednesday.

Transportation planners are looking at a “mobility management” philosophy that would change how Gold Country does business.



“Taxi vouchers are a possibility,” Healy-Harman said. Other long-range changes could include dial-a-ride and merging public riders with Telecare clients.

The philosophy also looks at using assisted living transit, social service agency transportation, and the sharing of cars and vans, Healy-Harman said.




“Profit centers” – including shopping centers, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and the downtowns of Grass Valley, Nevada City and Penn Valley – profit directly from bus service and should be asked to pitch in, said Nevada County Transit Commissioner Josh Susman at a meeting Wednesday.

Gold Country Stage’s woes are brought by an expected 21-percent decrease in sales tax income this fiscal year, Farrell said. He projected a similar decrease in revenue for 2010-11 and no foreseeable rebound in the economy to bring back the sales taxes – or level of services.

To ensure core services survive into the next fiscal year, commissioners are looking at consolidating routes and changing bus frequencies from every half-hour to every hour. Other ideas include reducing the number of daily runs on routes and cutting hours for Telecare runs.

No routes are scheduled for elimination, according to Healy-Harman. One year ago, the bus service ran into similar funding woes and combined several routes, eliminated runs to Colfax and North San Juan, and cut Saturday and night service.

Savings of $150,000 per year in salaries and benefits will be realized with the recent retirement of two bus drivers who will not be replaced, Farrell said. That brings the number of employees down to 14.

The payroll for the current year is $1.2 million, Farrell said, adding that furloughs have not been discussed. “As a manager, that’s between the employees and their union,” he added.

The new service cuts can’t come until public hearings are conducted, with the first scheduled at the next commission meeting on March 17.

Service changes could be in force by June or July, according to Healy-Harman.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davemoller @theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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