AC Transit cuts costs to balance budget

AC Transit was forced to cut costs in order to balance its budget.
Anna Vignet/Senior Staff

The AC Transit District announced Tuesday that it has balanced its budget following a series of cost-cutting decisions made by the district’s board of directors over the past year.

In the face of decreasing state funding and the state’s overall ailing economy, recent decisions made by the board include the scheduled closure of its Division 3 bus yard in Richmond and Paratransit Unit at Division 8 in Oakland, elimination of 54 employee positions and a 10-year fare policy scheduled to begin with a 10-cent increase to the basic adult fare in August. The budget will be presented to the AC Transit Board of Directors at its June 8 meeting, at which time some changes may be implemented, according to district spokesperson Clarence Johnson.

“We are constantly working with what we have and what our best estimate is of what will occur in the immediate future,” he said. “If the gas prices go up today to 7 dollars a gallon, that’s going to affect our budget analysis — it’s an ongoing thing.”

While some of the changes recently approved by the district are already under way and some have yet to be implemented — such as the Richmond bus yard closure — Johnson said the cumulative effect of each decision by the board has resulted in a balanced budget.

However, Robert Scott, assistant business agent for transportation for AC Transit, said the fact that the district will be receiving state transit assistance funds calls into question the real amount of its budget deficit.

In light of this additional funding from the state, Scott said he was skeptical about whether the closure of the Richmond yard is necessary, especially given the logistical problems he said the district would incur as a result.

“Division 3 has always had many problems … however, having said that, we are in the business of providing services to the communities we serve,” he stated.

But AC Transit Director-at-Large Chris Peeples said the district does not yet know when it will receive that state funding and that it was factored into the board’s decisions.

Furthermore, according to Johnson, the amount of state transit assistance funds have been dramatically cut over the past few years.

Johnson said the district is currently in a better financial state than it has been in the past but that its budget situation is still “tenuous” because it relies on many volatile variables such as fuel costs and tax revenue.

“We’re in a better place than we were, say, last year,” Johnson said. “But we still need to make some tough decisions and be very vigilant in our operations.”

Though the district has now balanced its budget, Peeples said it has been expensive in regards to service and the cost to employees who have had their positions eliminated.

“If I ran the world, we’d have about a 4 dollars-a-gallon gas tax, which would go to pay for transportation, gas, fire and police … but I don’t think we’re doing that this week,” he said.

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the AC Transit Board of Directors decided to close Paratransit Unit at Unit 8 in Oakland. In fact, the Paratransit Unit is located in Division 8.