[OPINION] Save Wheels2U Funding

Peter Gold is director of the Westport Transit District, and has lived in Westport for 40 years. He is an RTM member from District 5, and former chair of the RTM Transit Committee — but he is not writing this “Opinion” piece in his RTM capacity.

Wheels2U, Westport’s on-demand shuttle service, launched last October. Riders can download the Wheels2U app. With just a few clicks, they’ll get a ride between almost anywhere in town and Westport’s two train stations.

The Wheels2U shuttles provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way for Westport commuters, reverse commuters and others to link their homes, their Westport employers, and downtown to the train stations.

But now Wheels2U is in danger of being shut down before the end of the year. The Board of Finance recently voted to cut the shuttle’s budget by more than half.

However, Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) meets May 3 to vote on restoring funding to keep the shuttle running for another year.

Many Westport residents already use Wheels2U as part of their commute. Now that commuting is picking up as the world reopens, demand for this excellent service is growing. And there are many opportunities to leverage Wheels2U’s flexibility to address other Westport transportation needs.

Retaining an accessible, efficient and convenient shuttle between almost anywhere in town and the train stations, and allowing it to grow to serve other town needs, makes good sense, and is more important than ever.

It takes a vote of 70% of the RTM members present and voting at a meeting to override the Board of Finance and restore the funding for Wheels2U. If you believe supporting Wheels2U and public transportation in Westport is important, please email the RTM to urge it to restore the funding on May 3.  Emails can be sent to the RTM at RTMMailingList@Westportct.gov.

Information about Wheels2U, including hours of operation, service area and how to download the Wheels2U app can be found at Wheels2UWestport.com.  Information on the benefits Wheels2U currently provides to users and the town as a whole, and what Wheels2U could become if it is allowed to continue and grow, can be found by clicking this link.

Nearly all of Westport is included in the Wheels2U service area.

5 responses to “[OPINION] Save Wheels2U Funding

  1. Can Mr. Gold please justify the claim “environmentally-friendly?”

    A shuttle bus burns more fuel and emits more CO2 per mile driven than a car, so it’s only providing an environmental benefit when carrying a certain multiple of passengers.

    The calculation is simple: take the gallons of fuel burned by a bus, and divide it by the number of paid trips, and compare it with that of a car.

    The average car today gets 25 MPG, so assuming an average 5 mile trip to the station that’s 0.2 gallon per trip. Does the shuttle bus beat that?

    Can Mr. Gold please show us his math?

  2. Jim Westphal

    It would also be interesting to know how many riders use this service and how much it costs per rider. The buses were frequently empty before the pandemic and accompanying drop inn Metro North ridership. I can’t remember the last time I even saw someone on these buses, and the fixed costs must be enormous.

  3. Michael Calise

    Empty buses everywhere. Believe it or not Westport is an almost rural community which makes this service a struggle at best. The board of finance has cut the transit district almost every budget session and for good reason, it loses money bigtime. the entire concept needs to be restructured to at the very least a break even mode or permanently eliminated.
    My recollection is that the last time a per rider cost was publicized it was almost twenty dollars per ride. There are plenty of solutions available for our town to provide ride availability to those who genuinely require it in a much more economical way. Time for a change!!!

  4. Stacy Prince

    I remember renting a car in Switzerland, only to be embarrassed because we never needed it: Efficient train service was available everywhere. The dearth of public transport in this country astounds me; even where a good system once existed (think NYC’s subways), it is now routinely underfunded, and the constant struggle it is to retain affordable alternatives to car travel (think Amtrak) is equally unconscionable. Not everyone can afford two cars (or one car); not everyone is able (or allowed) to drive. Yes, that “last mile” is an expensive problem for everyone–including Amazon–and no one wants to pay for it. So let’s reframe our thinking. Some of what we support or subsidize in Westport (schools, the library) gets a lot of use. But other services we use less often (fire, police) are valuable, too. Maybe we can start to think of one person’s ability to get to the train — or elsewhere, if we expand public transport services– as another person’s “my house is on fire.”

  5. Article has no rider data which leads me to believe it’s low/unimpressive. It’s a well intentioned program BUT does it deliver the value to the broader community commensurate with the expense? Doubtful. Not all government sponsored programs are meant to live forever (hard to believe I know!).