Butler Transit cuts bus service

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For the first time in its history, the Butler Transit Authority has cut service to its riders — a decision that primarily impacts commuters who use the service for work.

“I don’t feel good about it. In fact, I feel pretty bad about it. But it was something we had to do,” said executive director John Paul.

Essentially, the final weekday run of “The Bus” on every route has been cut, as has all Sunday service.

Mr. Paul said the move was made because of a state mandate that requires “efficiencies in the operations of our routes. We had to look at our routes and service levels on not only a day-by-day basis but on a route-by-route basis. That showed us that some of our routes were not meeting minimal standards,” he explained.

At the same time, he said he is aware that though the number of riders on the eliminated routes may fall below the standard of what is considered “efficient,” the service is important, if not essential, to those who are impacted. “We know that most of the people who have been impacted were using the service for work. That made it a particularly hard decision,” Mr. Paul said.

The cuts were voted on by the transit authority board on June 24 and took effect July 1. He said public hearings yielded comments from passengers asking that the proposed cuts not be made “but it was a fait accompli based on the information we had,” Mr. Paul said.

Electronic passenger counters employed by the transit authority allowed the agency to see patterns of who was riding and when. “It was easy to determine what routes weren’t really efficient,” he said.

The mandate that requires efficiency in transit operations was set three years ago. For about 10 years of Mr. Paul’s 14-year tenure, he’s been using a special grant for employment access to allow the transit to operate into the evening hours. During his initial years of employment, the service ran only until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

“We’ve been able to provide (a longer day and weekend service) for 10 years now and we know that’s helped people getting to and from work. The cuts we’ve had to make were difficult but we’re still maintaining a lot of service,” he said. The cuts save about $100,000 annually. The total annual budget of the agency is about $2 million.

An analysis of the routes and the cuts were provided by authority public relations spokesman Kelly Stewart:

• Route 1, which travels to several shopping plazas including Pullman Square and the Butler VA Medical Center and a couple of apartment complexes, lost the final trip of the day at 9:34 p.m. Now the service runs from 7:30 a.m. to 8:19 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Four people were affected. Also, Sunday service was eliminated, affecting 66 people.

• Route 2, which travels to the Butler Arbors apartments as well as the Irene Stacy Mental Health Center and Sunnyview nursing home, lost all Saturday service, affecting 35 riders. The final run of the weekdays (9:47 p.m.) also was eliminated; the route runs from 7 a.m. to 9:17 p.m., affecting one rider. There was no Sunday service.

• Route 3, which services Butler Memorial Hospital, Clearview Mal, and some apartment complexes, eliminated all Sunday rides, impacting 66 riders. The last trip of Monday to Saturday service (9:34 p.m.) was eliminated, affecting four riders. Now the route runs from 7:30 a.m. to 8:21 p.m.

• Route 4, which runs among several apartment complexes and shopping plazas including the Greater Butler Mart and Pullman Square, eliminated Saturday service, affecting 35 riders. There was no Sunday service. The final run of the weekday (9:47 p.m.) was eliminated, ending at 9:17 p.m. now and affecting one rider.

• Route 5, running among several apartment complexes and shopping plazas including Butler Crossings as well as the VA Medical Center and Benbrook Medical Center — an exclusive weekday route — lost its 6:53 p.m. run, affecting three riders. The route runs from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. now.

The base fare is $1.25 one way on one route.

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or at 724-772-9180.

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