The chairman of the Transportation Commission this week said he was disappointed that the City Council “caved in” to public demands that local bus service be left untouched despite a $700,000 budget gap.
Continuing the handoff last month by the City Council to find other budget alternatives for cutting the BurbankBus service for seniors, the transportation commissioners on Monday began eyeing cuts to Got Wheels!, the supplemental local service for youth.
Paul Dyson, chairman of the commission, said that officials presented the City Council with strong options in terms of funding alternatives and possible service changes, but that they were sidelined by public opinion.
Nearly 20 BurbankBus riders packed City Hall last month to protest possible cuts to the program, which provides seniors and disabled residents free pickup and transit.
“I'm disappointed the council caved in to the public,” Dyson said, adding that the city spends a lot of money on bus service for seniors and the disabled.
To say “don’t touch it” without looking at alternatives may be shortsighted, Dyson said.
“What about seeing how we can spend less money?” he said.
With the City Council’s direction to find alternatives to service reductions at BurbankBus, traffic commissioners are looking to streamline routes and maintain the same hours for Got Wheels! These and other tweaks could lead to $97,000 to $150,000 in savings, but still leave the city short of the $700,000 it needs to stay within the budget, said David Kriske, principal planner in the city’s Planning and Transportation Division.
Targeted advertising and ads from Burbank-based businesses might also be a possibility on buses, but that might not come into play until the next budget cycle, he added.
The Transit Task Force had recommended that Got Wheels!, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. during the school year and in the summer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., be eliminated.
“[Got Wheels!] is mostly used as a school bus, and the money was meant for a broader service,” Kriske said.
But Commissioner Janet Diel said it might just be an issue of the “squeaky wheel” getting the oil.
She noted that 25 BurbankBus riders showed up to plead their case to the City Council meeting. By the time some of the students spoke about Got Wheels!, their pleas may have been overshadowed, she said.
“There are teens that use Got Wheels! to get to the library because they don’t have a computer at home,” she said.
Many families in Burbank struggle with basic necessities and cannot afford computers for their children, so maintaining access is important, she added.
“There are so many things in the city that we can get our kids to so they can be active members of the community,” she said.
The discussion could be back at the City Council by late May.