By James Cullum
Last night, the Alexandria Transit Company’s Board of Directors got its first look at a proposal to reduce service and increase fares on DASH, the City’s bus system.
City staff have identified an initial reduction of $600,000 in DASH transit subsidies for fiscal year 2011. “The last couple of years we’ve been trimming, trimming, trimming, and we can’t trim anymore unless we make significant service reductions,” said Sandy Modell, DASH general manager. “We have a very small, skeletal staff. “Over $10 million of our $11 million budget is in operations and the drivers.”
In 2010, DASH earned $3.7 million from fares and charter service. The City provided $10.5 million in subsidies. “Our total expenses are projected to increase four percent and that’s just to maintain current service,” Modell said. “However, we’re looking at a 9.4-percent reduction of revenue and that is due to a decline in regional transit ridership because of unemployment, lower fuel prices, a decline in Metro ridership and some service disruptions.”
Fare Increase and Service Reduction Options
With no fare increase, DASH will require an additional $536,000 from the City. With a ten-cent fare increase, the City will have to pay DASH an additional $406,000. With a 25-cent fare increase, the City will have to pay DASH an additional $108,000. A 25-cent fare increase plus a $5 increase in the cost of a DASH pass will require an additional City subsidy of $68,000.
The ATC Board looked at a number of service reduction options including the elimination of service into Landmark Mall. “We operate a lot of our routes into Landmark Mall and we’re not really sure people are going to the mall anymore as a destination,” said Al Himes, DASH director of planning and development.
Two other options, which would save $94,000 a year, are the elimination of service on the AT 4 route and realignment of the AT 7 route. Tier II service reductions would save $430,000 a year by eliminating service between the King Street and Braddock Metro stations or reducing trips between the two by 50%; eliminating all Sunday DASH service except the AT 8 route and eliminating service on holidays except for the AT 8 route. Tier III reductions would save $222,000 a year. That would eliminate the AT 2 or the AT 5 buses between King Street and the Braddock Road Metro stations.
“We may have to make people wait an extra five minutes and we can take out a few buses and not make such drastic service reductions,” Himes said.
Barbara Haley lives in Rosemont and represented the Rosemont Citizens Association at last night’s meeting. “At the end of the month, we’re going to be losing the 28A Metro bus. They are going to the 28B, which runs every 30 minutes. Given that, I hope that you’ll keep the AT 3 with its current service because that serves Del Ray and Rosemont,” she said.
Chris Duran lives in the City’s West End. “Several of the service cuts of this scope go against DASH’s desire to be a core city service and what DASH has tried to accomplish,” he said. “Arlington and Fairfax instituted a commercial tax to help pay for transit and I think that they City should look at that.”
Meredith McNabb doesn’t understand why the City is considering additional cuts in the DASH subsidy. “It’s kind of shocking that the City is saying $600,000. I feel like we just did this,” she said.
Some citizens recommended allowing advertising on the inside of DASH bus shelters. “We’ve done studies that show that advertising on the inside of a bus shelter would result in less than $20,000 in additional revenue and we don’t want to put advertisements inside the buses so we can maintain our brand,” said Rich Baier, the City’s director of transportation and environmental services.
Modell said that DASH is working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to ensure that service reductions do not disproportionately effect any area of the City. “Our Board is going to approve our budget before Metro is, but we are going to work closely with the City so that complete service is not eradicated from an area, we are hoping,” she said.
The ATC Board will hold a public hearing on the FY2011 budget on Thursday, Jan. 28, and will adopt the final budget that night.