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Opinion October 11, 2017

Plus Letters to the Editor

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

As Good Times goes to press, a disaster of unprecedented proportions is unfolding in Sonoma and Napa counties, where our sister paper, the North Bay Bohemian, is published. We’ve shut the Santa Rosa office due to the smoke. Employees have evacuated their homes, one of which may have burned to the ground.

With thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, a rebuilding effort will be needed to put lives and communities back together. It’s reminiscent of the 1989 earthquake that devastated Santa Cruz for years afterwards.

For those who want to help, we’ve established a fund that will distribute all proceeds to the nonprofits on the front lines of the Sonoma County and Napa County relief efforts. Please go to rebuildsonomafund.org and assist if you can.

Natural disasters are unavoidable, and too often we feel helpless when we hear that lives and homes are lost. In this case, through the Rebuild Sonoma Fund established by Good Times’ owners, and administered by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, readers can make a difference and help our Bay Area neighbors by getting money directly to the impacted areas, without administrative overhead.

Dan Pulcrano | CEO

Letters to the Editor

METRO’s Recovery

Re: “Fare Question” (GT, 9/6): Three years ago, Santa Cruz METRO was in dire financial straits, with insolvency being a real threat within a couple of years.

As a result of the Great Recession, METRO received $26 million less in sales tax revenue than forecasted from 2008-2014. This required METRO to spend almost $22 million in reserves and other non-recurring revenues to maintain its level of bus service. Due to this economic downturn, METRO was unable to maintain and upgrade its bus fleet. Of its fleet of 100 buses, almost 60 need to be replaced now.

Despite these enormous challenges, and contrary to inaccurate assertions in a recent Grand Jury report suggesting that METRO was not doing a good job, METRO is back on its feet financially. It has been a hard three years at METRO with financial belt-tightening, a 19 percent service reduction in September 2016, and difficulties meeting service needs during the 2016-17 harsh winter.

However, with community support, including voters’ passage of Measure D and UCSC and Cabrillo College students’ funding of student bus pass programs, we are on a path to long-term financial viability, as long as outside factors remain fairly constant.

This summer METRO adopted a new balanced two-year budget and a five-year plan, which will not draw on limited remaining reserves. In addition, the agency saved over $1 million in last year’s $50 million operating budget, which we can now re-allocate to rebuild financial reserves to appropriate levels, as well as begin to improve the bus fleet, which is threatening to become the limiting factor in METRO’s ability to provide bus service the community needs and wants.

The costs of running any agency continue to increase, which puts METRO at risk of financial difficulties. Currently, there are no opportunities for significant increases to bus service levels. In the near-term, METRO looks to provide additional capacity incrementally in the most needed corridors and expand daily hours of service where possible to increase the rider’s ability to access jobs and other trips which don’t fit into traditional morning and afternoon commute periods.

The loss of a community bus service which provides over five million trips annually would have a major impact to the economy and the environment. Every weekday, approximately 17,000 trips are made between homes and jobs, schools, medical, shopping—primarily by people with limited transportation options.  Almost 80 percent of METRO riders do not have access to private transportation and they use METRO at least five days a week. Over 750,000 of METRO’s annual boardings are by senior and disabled riders along with another 85,000 who use METRO’s on-demand, accessible-van service ParaCruz.

METRO continues to need and welcome the support and partnership of other agencies in the county, as well as the support of the community. Together we can ensure a future where METRO provides a viable bus service alternative option to that of the private automobile for those who need the bus service, as well as want it.

Jimmy Dutra | Chair, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District Board of Directors

Everybody’s Issue

Re: “Living on the Edge” (GT, 8/22): Is there any question that the effects of our ever changing and disrupting climate have affected the severity of the massive hurricane in Houston? Can we continue to ignore the signs and await further “proof” that the climate is changing, faster, and more dramatically?

This is the one issue which unites all life on this planet. Humans are the species responsible for these changes, and humans can have an impact on their mitigation.  No other political or environmental issue compares in importance. Wake up people, call out loudly for attention to this crisis.

Pat McVeigh

Santa Cruz

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