Main Bar: The Effects of Lane Transit Districts Budget Cuts in the Cal Young Neighborhood

By Matt DeBow

This is the route that serves the area the other route follows the same path going the other way.

Lane Transit District cut bus routes in June, including two bus routes in the Cal Young Neighborhood with another round of cuts happening next month.

Cal Young is the largest (by area) neighborhood in the city, but only two bus routes  serve the area. With the current round of budget cuts a route called The Breeze that ran from the University of Oregon campus to Valley River Mall was cut and LTD is still facing a budget deficit  of $6.5 million.

The 60 route, which served the Cal Young Neighborhood, was historically a weak route for LTD was also cut last month. There was one small pocket on Brewer Street that saw strong ridership on the route because of low-income housing. The route had been kept on limited service, only running four or five times daily, but it was cut in June of this year.

“We had more routes in the 90’s when we had more of a budget, but with the recession we have had to look into cutting routes in the area,” said Will Mueller, Service Planning Manager for LTD.

LTD’s operating budget consists of 75% payroll taxes and 20% come from bus fares. With such a strong dependence on payroll taxes with the recession LTD’s budget suffers, yet more people need the bus because they are unemployed.

Part of the budget cuts included no longer sending busses out to locations when busses are running behind. With construction in full swing this summer busses are often late.

“We will still send an extra bus out if a bus breaks down, but we can’t anymore if a bus is delayed,” Mueller said.

Mueller said cutting The Breeze made the routes in the Cal Young neighborhood less convenient, but the other routes have added The Breeze’s stops to fill in for what that route was covering.

According to LTD, the expected ridership standards are lower than the urban ridership standards and a route needs to meet two-thirds of the expected ridership or they will consider cutting the route, which is what happened with route 60 in the Cal Young neighborhood.

Demographics are also taken into account when cutting bus service. The routes in Cal Young were cut because they did not meet the two-thirds ridership expectation, and the demographic in the neighborhood is mostly upper-middle class.

According to Zillow.com The median income in the Cal Young neighborhood is about $45,000 a year, which is about $10,000 higher than the median income in Eugene.

The 66 and 67, which serve the Cal Young neighborhood, “are doing great. They’re strong productive routes.” Mueller said. These routes will not be cut, although LTD could limit operating hours and cut Sunday service for these routes with next round of budget cuts in the fall.

“We like to cut routes where people have alternatives,” said Mueller. In the case of The Breeze the 66 and 67 have picked up the stops where The Breeze used to go, except that there is no stop at the University of Oregon that goes directly to the Cal Young Neighborhood.

“People in the (Cal Young Neighborhood) are may feel the bus route is lacking because it is no longer as convenient  . . .” without the Breeze, Mueller said.

Another route in Springfield that did not meet ridership expectations was kept because the demographic consisted of poor and elderly citizens.

Construction in the Neighborhood.

“The main construction detours affecting the Cal Young Neighborhood are the culverts at Goodpasture Island Road. The 66 route has not been detoured because of this construction, but the “67 route has been rerouted through the Valley River corridor.” Mueller said.

Bus drivers do not drive one continuous route so congestion or construction in one area can affect another, Mueller said. While the work on Goodpasture Island Road slows down the 66 and 67, other construction anywhere in Eugene has been slowing down all the routes.

“The 66 is always late,” said Sara Reynolds, regular bus rider and Santa Clara resident.

Reynolds who has lived in Eugene for a year, who is unemployed, moved to Eugene from a larger city in southern California said she uses  the bus to go anywhere.

“I take (the bus) out to Wal-mart, downtown, pretty much anywhere I need to go,” Reynolds said.

What residents and riders think of the changes

“Since they cut service, and raised the prices of monthly bus fares, I don’t think they are really in touch with this community,” said Cal Young resident Justin Blakely.

Blakely rides the bus every day. Blakely said he rides the bus to get food and to get to work at the Saturday Market for his father.

Blakely said he found the Breeze a convenient route for him, but said if LTD was going to cut a route that one made the most sense.

Reynolds said she took The Breeze and it was quicker, but said she didn’t need it because it only saved her about five minutes a trip. She said they should have left The Breeze for college students.

Lydia Perezchizch, Cal Young neighborhood resident, who works and an adult foster home had only one complaint about  bus service. She said the service was generally good and usually on-time.

Perezchizch said, “When you pay for a seat, you should be able to get a seat because people take up two seats and they don’t say nothing about it.”

Reynolds said the bus system is good for the size of the town that it is. She said the bus system could be better, but she said “I’m just thankful it’s as good as it is.”

Reynolds added that the bus drivers are always helpful and friendly. She said that she has only ever

The President of the Cal Young Neighborhood’s Perspective

“I feel like bus service is oriented only toward businesses and residents (in the neighborhood),” said Tonya Spears, who is president of the  Cal Young Neighborhood Association.

Spears said she would like to see routes added back along Gilham Road (the 60 route that was cut traveled along Gilham) one on Norkenzie Road and one on Cal Young Road.

Spears said cutting the 60 route “.  . . was reverse direction from making people more transit user-friendly,” but she said cutting the breeze “made since” because it was just “one of those feel good ideas” that did not work in practice and that “because they’ve included that route in the changes they made to the 66 and 67.”

“I ride the bus as little as possible. Occasionally, I (will) ride the bus to city club meetings  so I don’t have to park downtown,” Spears said. The city recently approved removing parking meters from select areas downtown.

“If I didn’t have a car I wouldn’t live where I do,” Spears said.  “Even though I live 200 feet from a bus stop (I wouldn’t take the bus) because time is a very precious commodity and taking the bus adds one to two hours to a destination in this neighborhood.”

“It always adds an hour for me, and it only takes 10 minutes to get downtown in a car.”

“Why would I wait for the bus to go to Walmart when it takes four minutes by car?” Spears asked.

Side Bars

LTD’s response to Stop the Green Dragon

Profile of Riders in the Cal Young Neighborhood

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