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Due to mid-year cuts in promised state revenue, the 9 Town Transit Board, grappling with how to balance the budget, held a public hearing on one option, to cut three runs of the Shoreline Shuttle bus route: one at 7:30 a.m., one at 12:30 p.m,. and one at 3:30 p.m., all from Old Saybrook. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
VISTA Discover Program Manager Scott Taylor urges 9 Town Transit to avoid cutting three shuttle runs. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Max Sarti, VISTA member and Westbrook resident, told the 9 Town Transit Board that he uses the Shoreline Shuttle to get to work and fitness and recreation activities and the proposed cut of three runs will hurt his ability to get to these things. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Members of the 9 Town Transit Board listen to the public comments urging the board not to cut three runs of the Shoreline Shuttle. Many urged preservation of the 7:30 a.m. run in particular, which helps them access work sites. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Mid-year funding cuts to 9 Town Transit by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is forcing the agency to cut costs with a proposal to eliminate three of 13 daily Shoreline Shuttle bus runs between Old Saybrook and Madison on Route One. At the transit board’s April 3 public hearing on the cost-cutting plan, speakers pleaded with the board to preserve those runs.
“This bus is my lifeline,” said Bette Phillips, a senior citizen who described herself as being on a limited income and unable to afford to own a car. “That route gets me to my doctor appointment in Middletown. To eliminate routes really impacts people in a negative way. They keep cutting everything for everyone who can least afford it.”
Phillips was among a chorus of local residents to speak before the board, which has in the past several years expanded service, opening myriad opportunities for non-car-driving residents.
The 9 Town Transit Board, in announcing the public hearing, wrote, “The reductions are being proposed to address an operating deficit caused by a reduction in state funding for the current fiscal year. Anyone effected [sic] by the service reductions or know someone who is should attend the hearing or provide written testimony.”
9 Town Transit Executive Director Joe Comerford told the audience that all of their comments would be sent on the Department of Transportation for it to consider.
“The more we’re telling those stories and helping them at the State Capitol to understand that any reductions have a huge impact on the people in the our community and impacts their ability to work...We need to maintain public transit and expand it,” said Comerford.
Shoreline Soup Kitchen Director of Development and Outreach Clair Bellerjeau, a member of the Shoreline Basics Needs Task Force, was first to speak. In a 15-minute presentation, she recounted the three-hour ride she took on 9 Transit buses to get from her home to a Basic Needs Task Force meeting in Essex. She spoke about the steady stream of riders, some clearly regular riders, getting on and off the bus, and many who were clearly relying on the bus to get to work.
“There were so many examples of community members traveling along the shoreline [by bus]. [Cutting] the 12:30, 7:30 and 3:30 buses could negatively impact them,” said Bellerjeau.
Lauren Ashe, executive director of HOPE Partnership explained that HOPE is involved in a number of shoreline towns in working to foster workforce housing additions. HOPE also was behind the Ferry Landing affordable housing development in Old Saybrook. Ashe noted that many of the 80 residents there need to maintain access to good public transit.
“I ask you to take into consideration the need to continue to provide access to the community and the workplace,” said Ashe.
VISTA member Sarah Brockman told the 9 Town Transit Board that she needs to use the bus to get to her job at Big Y. Another VISTA member and Westbrook resident, Max Sarti, said he uses the Shoreline Shuttle bus to get to work, too, and also to fitness and recreation activities.
“Eliminating the 7:30 a.m. route, I could not attend my programming or get to my job on time. I urge you to strongly consider not eliminating the 7:30 a.m. route,” said Sarti.
Other speakers included Jay Jackson, representing the Settlers Landing Association and the VISTA members who are its residents. He noted that the residents are dependent on the bus to get to the Y and to their jobs and activities. Scott Taylor, VISTA’s Discover Program manager, agreed, noting that most of VISTA members training occurs in the community.
Old Saybrook Social Services Coordinator Sue Consoli said her biggest concern was the 7:30 a.m. bus being cut, because it is one that workers going to jobs at Tanger Outlets and Clinton Crossing use.
Westbrook resident Darlene Briggs, a local business person and a leader in the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber opposed the run cuts.
Unless the DOT reverses its mid-year funding cuts to 9 Town Transit, the transit agency has said that the proposed service reductions—the elimination of the 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Shoreline Shuttle bus runs that start in Old Saybrook — will be effective on May 1, 2017.
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