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Many disabled local residents who regularly ride paratransit buses were among the approximately 250 people who turned out for a Monday afternoon public hearing on proposed cuts to Sacramento’s Regional Transit.
The disabled transit riders — which included many people in wheelchairs — urged the RT board of directors to maintain paratransit services.
In the 2011 fiscal year, RT predicts it will have a $25 million budget gap according to a statement on the RT website. The statement notes that RT has been hammered by low revenues from state and local taxes, as well as by the state’s discontinuation of State Transit Assistance funding. In addition, the statement points out that furloughs and the high unemployment rate have resulted in RT taking in less money from fares.
The board is analyzing nine different ways it could make cuts to balance its budget. RT is planning for layoffs to be part of the budget cuts.
RT’s board of directors will make a decision on budget cuts at its March 22 meeting. The cuts would take effect June 20.
At Monday’s hearing, many people waited in line outside the RT building at N and 29th Streets to enter the meeting rooms. Once the hearing room was filled, RT officials opened up several nearby rooms so that people could watch the hearing on televisions. At least 250 people attended the meeting, according to Mike Mattos, RT’s chief of facilities and business support.
Beverly King, who has used paratransit since 1979, said she started crying when she addressed the RT board. She said outside the meeting that she appreciates the service, and does not have an alternate transit service that she can use.
“We won’t be able to do things on the weekends,” King said.
Lilyann Mitchell told the board that the late civil rights activist Rosa Parks would have wanted the board to maintain services for disabled transit riders.
Mitchell was a personal friend of Parks — their friendship was the subject of a 2005 Sacramento Bee article.
Mitchell said that Parks, if she was still alive, would have said to the RT board: “Please do not deny the services of all these handicapped people.”
RT works with a private firm, Paratransit, Inc., to provide transit service for disabled residents.
There are no proposals to cut all paratransit services, according to Alane Masui, assistant general manager of marketing and communications for RT. While cuts are planned, the entire service would not be shut down, Masui said.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.