News release from Mayor Joe Ganim:
Mayor Joe Ganim today joined State Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-129), members of the Bridgeport City Council, unionized bus drivers and riders in calling for Connecticut lawmakers to prevent drastic state budget cuts proposed to the Greater Bridgeport Transit (GBT) public bus system. Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 calls for a $1.8 Million reduction in state funding for GBT starting on July 1, 2018–representing a 15% cut.
This is the single largest proposed cut to public transportation services in Connecticut, though the Governor’s budget would also cut bus service in the areas of Norwich, New London, Milford, Danbury, Torrington, Norwalk, and Derby. No cuts were proposed to the Waterbury, New Haven, Hartford, or Stamford areas. The Governor’s budget calls for a 50% reduction in funds for GBT in FY 2020–which would devastate the bus service and end many routes that riders have come to rely on for connections between the greater Bridgeport area, lower Fairfield County and the Naugatuck River Valley. A map of the proposed service reductions resulting from these state budget cuts is attached to the end of this news release.
“These proposed cuts are unconscionable and so counter-productive to where we want to be going as a state,” saidBridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. “At a time when we are trying to reduce traffic, get more cars off the roads and repair crumbling infrastructure, cutting public transportation will undermine all of our efforts. These cuts will also disproportionately impact our most vulnerable population–our elderly and those who either can’t drive because they are disabled or simply can’t afford to own a car. Thousands of Bridgeport residents rely on the bus service literally for their livelihood. We need to support our legislators in finding a more stable funding source for transportation in Connecticut so we can have more reliable public transit and repair our infrastructure. This is a critical public investment. Our answer to these proposed cuts is a two-letter word: NO!”
“This is the most short-sighted, ill-conceived, unnecessary cut we could possibly be considering in Hartford right now,” said Bridgeport State Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-129). “A couple million dollars goes a long way towards providing a lot of folks the ability to get to and from work, and to and from school. We have ignored the Special Transportation Fund for decades. Years ago we cut the gas tax and we took away tolls, and our transportation infrastructure has crumbled underneath us as a result. Businesses all over the state tell us their employees can’t get to work because they’re stuck in traffic. This hurts our ability to attract and retain jobs in Connecticut. These cuts will only make that worse. There’s an easy solution–bring back electronic tolls and a slight increase to the gas tax and we can avoid all of these cuts to mass transit.”
“If these cuts really happen this July, Greater Bridgeport Transit service will be reduced to a level we have not seen since the 1950s,” said Doug Holcomb, Chief Executive Officer of GBT. “If you take the service into the valley, that will likely be gone. If you take the evening service, that will likely be gone. We will see the Saturday service go to a Sunday schedule, and critical lines bringing people into downtown Bridgeport will be cut in half. We’ll lose riders, and we will lose a major part of the system. Legislators need to know the importance of this vital public transportation service. If the General Assembly doesn’t act to shore up the Special Transportation Fund, many thousands of people will have their lives disrupted, finding it nearly impossible to get to their jobs, do their shopping, or go see friends and family. We need to act now to stop the bus cuts, stop the rail cuts, and stop the proposed fare increases–right away!”
“These cuts will impact the quality of life for real people–for mothers, fathers, and for youth who are trying to get from one place to another,” said Bridgeport City Council President Aidee Nieves. “We really need all of us and our constituents–the residents of Bridgeport who rely on this public bus service–to go and tell your legislator: Say NO to these cuts! We Need our buses!”
Mustafa Salahuddin, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1336 representing more than 350 GBT bus drivers, said “These cuts will have a devastating impact on my members and their families. There are third world countries and developing countries that have dynamic public transportation systems. Why? Because that is where their government chooses to focus their resources. Don’t let the federal and state government tell you they don’t have enough money, we can’t pay for transportation. It’s just not true. It’s just that they’re choosing to spend the money somewhere else. We need to send a clear message to all of our legislators that we have had enough. Restore funding to public transportation or we will mobilize and vote you out!”
GBT bus rider Chris Argenziano of Bridgeport, said “As an everyday bus rider, I can say: we rely on these buses, we need these buses. People need to get to their jobs. People need to get to their doctors appointments. People need to go see their family members. The bus workers need to make their livelihoods. These cuts would be atrocious. This is just not right at all, and it seems like Bridgeport is always getting the short end of the stick. I just hope and pray that Hartford listens to all of our voices.”
For more information about what constituents can do to contact their legislators to reverse the proposed budget cuts to public transportation, please visit the GBT website at www.gogbt.com.