Ill.’s Springfield Mass Transit District (SMTD) board of trustees, responding to delays in state payments and continued uncertainty in the state budget moving forward, approved reductions in night service hours proposed in the previous board meeting, with one exception — weeknight night service will be reduced by only one hour rather than two hours, as was previously proposed.
“Dozens of passengers commented either at one of our three meetings or online, and, as is always the case, those comments were presented to the board for their review and consideration,” said Steve Schoeffel, SMTD’s service planning & marketing specialist. “While no one wants service reductions, the vast majority of public comment dealt with hardships that would be caused by the 40% reduction in weeknight service hours.”
He added SMTD is taking other steps to reduce cost outside of service reductions.
“Some perceive these cuts as SMTD reducing costs solely by reducing service,” Schoeffel explained. “In fact, these service reductions are just one of several avenues we are exploring to reduce costs.”
Over $600,000 in savings from everything from administrative contracts for items, such as office cleaning to millions in capital projects requiring hundreds of thousands in matching local funds being put on hold, are being considered. The roughly $180,000 in cost savings from the night service reductions are less than one third of what is already being done while SMTD awaits delayed payments and a clearer budget picture from the state.
In addition, technology improvements already approved have been scaled back to still allow for the project to move forward without risking loss of the federal grant funding already committed, but on a longer implementation schedule to allow SMTD more financial flexibility.
“All of these measures add up to a significant amount, and, hopefully, this will get us through for a while without further, more substantial cuts,” Schoeffel added. “We believe this is the least-painful way we can reduce costs and still maintain core services moving forward.”
Should the district’s funding stabilize in the next few months, SMTD plans to re-evaluate these reductions and would consider re-starting services. However, the changes are scheduled to be implemented early in January 2017, and the situation is not likely to be resolved before then, according to the agency.