Westporters Urge Restoration Of Transit Funds

On Saturday, I posted a plea from a Westporter who can’t drive. He’s looking for help getting to and from the library.

Westport TransitCoincidentally, tonight (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the RTM votes on whether or not to restore money cut (in a 4-3 vote) by the Board of Finance from the Westport Transit District budget.

The $37,714 would pay for marketing ($20,000) and a professional staffer ($17,714).

Some Westport residents have decried the cuts.

Jim Ross, chair of the Citizen’s Transit Committee, said:

These funds are critical not because of the amount but the formal recognition that transportation issues and policies in Westport requires a dedicated, transit focused support and budget. Congestion, parking, commuting, shopping, pedestrian safety, pollution and so much more affects each of us living and working in Westport.

Westport Transit District bus

For far too long, we have relied on the generous volunteer efforts of well-intentioned but inexperienced and time-constrained citizen-advocates to do the job of a transit professional. They have no administrative budget, no staff support, not even a closet to store the transit budget/operational materials that they pay for out of their own pocket. These funds, requested in the first selectman’s budget, are a small but critical  first step in addressing, in a meaningful and intelligent way, Westport’s long term and 24/7 transportation issues, planning and operations.

Marketing dollars go to printing schedules, train station/social media/ internet/print media advertising, as well as special transit-related events like the transit kiosk at the Senior Center, ridership surveys and the occasional free commuter coffee at the train stations.

Westport transit issues and operations are a 24/7 reality. With the growing impact of Metro-North, I-95, parking/traffic congestion, pedestrian/driver safety, downtown development and air quality — not to mention general town productivity and quality of life — the part-time staff can bring a continuous focus and transportatio -expertise to bear on the challenges. It is simply too big and impactful on our town and citizens to relegate this to well-intentioned citizen-volunteers.

A Westport Transit District bus, at the YMCA.

A Westport Transit District bus, at the YMCA.

Stephen Rockwell Desloge — president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — also weighed in:

One of the 6 primary Planning Directives of the Downtown Master Plan is: Improve Traffic Flow and Parking Management. …

There are currently approximately 1600 retail employees who work downtown. If one assumes that at any one time 40-50% of employees are working per shift, an average of approximately 650-800 employees commute to downtown every day. During peak shopping seasons, this increases to about 1200 employees. The addition of 50,000 square feet of new retail space will increase the number of commuting employees to an average of 1200 daily, with peak season approaching 1800 employees.

Parking is a perennial problem for employees and shoppers in downtown Westport. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Parking is a perennial problem for employees and shoppers in downtown Westport. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The challenge that the town faces is to substantially increase the number of employees who take public transportation and decrease the number of employees who drive downtown every day. Westport has to stay ahead of the curve on this issue…

This effort takes a substantial and sustained long term marketing effort and a dedicated staff person to assure that every possible avenue is being pursued to achieve the goals as set out in the Downtown Master Plan. The WDMA asks that the RTM approves this $37,000 expenditure.

Darcy Sledge added:

I have been a Westport resident for 25 years. My husband and I used the commuter bus for many years. It was an integral part of our decision to settle in Westport. My husband and I both commuted to NYC , and the bus was a way for us to come and go at different times so that we could juggle our family responsibilities.

Now I am a realtor. I can say with experience: The commuter bus has always been a valuable asset to the town of Westport. It is a huge amenity! It affects resale value, not just for a specific house, but for the town — especially given the waiting list for parking sticker.

This is something that the town needs. Please do not cut funding for this important amenity for our working professionals.

Transit is just one of the funding requests the RTM will consider tonight at Town Hall. If you want to be there, the only way is to drive.

Or taxi or Uber.

10 responses to “Westporters Urge Restoration Of Transit Funds

  1. Later this year a new app will come online from Norwalk Transit that will give commuters and other bus riders real time information and make catching the bus much easier. This system will also provide tons of data to help optimize current routes, but it needs a professional to analyse and make recommendations.

    There are over 1500 people on the waiting list for railroad parking, and the Transit Directors have proposals to extend evening service from Saugatuck to the Imperial lot to give commuters more flexibility in staying late at work and still have transit. Any new service will need marketing dollars to maximize ridership.

    Restoring these funds is a no brainer.

  2. Why do we need those big behemoth buses? They are a waste of money. If we had smaller vans, we could have more of them and then people might actually think about using public transportation.

  3. Jon K. Williams

    I commute to Westport to work at a school here, and I can attest that those big old buses are often full to capacity in the mornings. I’m also thrilled to know that there will soon be an app to let us know when and where the shuttles will be. This is a service that many commuters use!

  4. Maria fraioli

    It is a sin that a city’ caliber as westport does not have a transportation like all the other towns .
    I’ m new in this town’ and I love ‘as is but we need not take it out to those who need transportation: the young, the workers and the ELDERLY !!!!!!

    • Maria – we’re actually one of the only towns that offers this type of transpiration. We also take care of the elderly with door to door service. Most importantly – welcome to Westport! You’ll love it as we all do.
      Avi Kaner
      Second Selectman

  5. Hopefully, Westport and environs won’t have to resort to a referendum in which the Yes and No sides battle it out over a 0.5% “Congestion Improvement Tax”. If you do, Yes is the obvious vote.

  6. Maria fraioli

    And so be The first To have The Best and the greatest publicly transportation in the area!

  7. The RTM restored that $37,714 cut last night — amid great praise for the importance of the Westport Transit District from several members.

  8. Jon K. Williams

    This is great news! And anecdotally, I just took the S-1 shuttle bus from the Saugatuck Metro-North station to the Post Road. Eleven people were on it.

  9. Thomas Doyle

    While I never used the bus system when commuting to NYC due to the hours I kept they are important for the town and we should continue to support this mode of public transit.