Like all Nevada government agencies, the Regional Transportation Commission is bracing for a year in which money is tight but services are in demand.
General Manager Jacob Snow on Thursday introduced the tentative budget for fiscal year 2011-12. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the budget at the commission’s May 19 meeting.
With revenues falling and fuel prices rising, the transit agency plans to cut back on some services while moving forward with a handful of capital projects.
"We’ll carefully reduce transit services due to the sales tax decrease," said Marc Traasdahl, finance director for the transit agency.
Taxes pay for the bulk of the agency’s budget, with sales taxes accounting for 41 percent and motor vehicle tax 19 percent. Passenger fares account for 19 percent, and grants make up 17 percent.
Transportation officials have seen a steep rise in the cost to run its ParaTransit system, which offers door-to-door service for passengers who because of disabilities are unable to take the fixed-route transportation.
Between fiscal year 2010 and projections for fiscal year 2012, the cost to run the system increased from $29 million to $38 million.
Although ridership numbers for the ParaTransit line have risen steadily to an anticipated 1.3 million next year, the agency is considering cutbacks.
The system serves any residents who live a mile and a half from a regular bus route. If approved, the distance will be reduced to three-fourths of a mile. Passengers who use the service will be grandfathered in, and the new requirements will not apply to them.
Also, the agency is proposing to do away with the $30 monthly passes that allow passengers to use the ParaTransit service as many times as they wish.
Ridership on fixed-route buses has dipped since a high of 64.8 million passengers a year in 2008. In 2012, ridership is projected to be 54 million.
Traasdahl said higher gasoline prices have had both good and bad effects on ridership. In recent months, the agency has seen more residents opt for the bus over their private vehicles, but the high fuel costs have prompted the agency to cut back on services.
However, the situation is not as bad as it could be.
The agency’s recent decision to "fuel hedge" has paid off as gasoline prices skyrocket. Fuel-hedging is when a company agrees to a fixed rate on gasoline for a certain number of years.
Because of that agreement, the commission will pay $2.55 per gallon during the next fiscal year. It had initially budgeted for $3.50 by the year 2012.
The Regional Transportation Agency’s capital improvement budget is $24.5 million. Some of the projects planned for the upcoming fiscal year include a transit center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, adding 142 new ParaTransit vehicles, installing additional fuel stations and building 150 new bus shelters.