AC Transit is eliminating some lines and combining others to make up for budget losses in the proposed fiscal years 2020 to 2021, according to a virtual board meeting Wednesday.
AC Transit’s projected revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is about $465.4 million, with about $85 million provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Since projected expenses are expected to be about $470.6 million, the agency is gearing up to operate at an approximate $5.2 million deficit.
“We don’t know what the budget is really going to be for a while,” said AC Transit Board Vice President Elsa Ortiz at the meeting. “We don’t know how much money we’re going to have available.”
Among proposed changes are the elimination of the 67 and 80 bus lines with no replacements, the merging of the 18 and 62 lines and the elimination of the 79 line with some stops covered by other buses.
Residents expressed concerns over the elimination of the 67 line, which connects Downtown Berkeley to North Berkeley neighborhoods approaching Grizzly Peak. The cut was made due to “relatively low ridership,” according to the proposal.
“I’m unable to afford a car, so I rely on the 67 route,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Mallika Snyder at the meeting. “This bus is a lifeline.”
One member of the East Bay Transit Riders group, Nick Mediati, said the cuts felt like officials took a pair of scissors to some bus lines and then duct taped them back together.
Public commenters in the same group also noted how the 80 line is the only bus that connects lower-income neighborhoods along Ashby Avenue to the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
“It sends a message that AC Transit is all about connecting commercial areas to commercial areas, and not the people to the community,” said East Bay Transit Riders group member Diego Aguilar-Canabal at the meeting.
One of the most significant changes for UC Berkeley students is the merging of the 51A and the 51B lines into a single 51 line. The line was initially split in 2010, partially due to overcrowding, but the proposed merge is said to eliminate the “inconvenient transfer” for passengers who use both lines.
The F transbay line will also be operating at reduced frequency, but now includes a stop at the Emeryville Amtrak station before heading into San Francisco.
“When you talk about service reductions, you got to look at the whole system — not just part of it,” said AC Transit Board President Joe Wallace. “My thing about service reductions: Don’t touch my ward. Period.”
Several public commenters suggested alternative revenue sources, such as eliminating free public parking on Sundays and redirecting police funds toward transportation.
“The interest of drivers and the interest of riders is not at odds,” said East Bay Transit Riders co-creator Darrell Owens. “What’s important to understand here is that we need to look into alternative sources of revenue.”
The next board of directors meeting will be held virtually July 22.