Sieben has concerns about TRAC cutsJeff Schommer has been riding TRAC buses in Hastings for 15 years. He uses them to get to work at the Hastings YMCA, and to Hastings Family Service, where he volunteers every Tuesday.
By: Keith Grauman, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Jeff Schommer has been riding TRAC buses in Hastings for 15 years. He uses them to get to work at the Hastings YMCA, and to Hastings Family Service, where he volunteers every Tuesday.
Schommer’s story is like many others in Hastings. He depends on TRAC buses for his everyday life. If a Metropolitan Council plan to cut funding to local bus programs like TRAC and redistribute it more equitably throughout the metro area goes through, the effects for Schommer would be simple.
“It wouldn’t be good,” he said.
Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, held a news conference outside the Hastings Area Senior Center Tuesday afternoon to call attention to the Met Council’s plan and voice her concerns over the proposed changes.
“While I support the overall goal in providing streamlined and uniform service across the metropolitan area, I fear that this program restructuring will reduce the quality of service to Dakota County residents, especially those in Hastings,” Sieben said in a news release. “The TRAC program has served this community for the past 32 years; putting an axe to it now will be devastating to the many citizens who use this service on a regular basis.”
Another of those citizens is Pat Smart. She was leaving the senior center on a motorized scooter as the news conference was going on and stopped to voice her opinion.
“I use it to go to the store, to the doctor, and without it, I’d be stuck,” she said.
The Met Council has said it would make the cuts to the TRAC program in early 2010. It would continue to fund some form of bus service in the city, but it’s still unclear what that program would look like.
Sieben suggested holding off the implementation of the changes for a year until more questions can be answered about the program the Met Council would implement here. It’s expected that the program would be smaller than TRAC, and more expensive for riders. Sieben said that would be taking a step backward for the residents of Hastings.
“We want to move forward and provide more transit options to our residents,” she said.
Hastings City Council Member Mike Slavik said now isn’t the time to be raising fares for transit.
“The last thing we need is to be making it more expensive to get from point A to point B,” Slavik said.
Jane Hausman knows how difficult getting around can be for people who don’t drive. She owns Ruth Homes and runs a 20-bed home care facility for seniors in Hastings. Her residents use the TRAC bus to get to doctor appointments, and a few ride it down to the senior center twice a week to play cards.
A representative from the Met Council will be making a presentation to the Hastings City Council at its Monday June 15 meeting. Sieben said she’s hoping to hear more about what the Met Council has planned for a replacement program in Hastings. She also said residents who have a stake in TRAC should attend the meeting.
“I encourage citizens who use this dial-a-ride service to attend this meeting and share your thoughts and experiences,” she said. “They need to hear that taking such a huge step backwards in Dakota County transit services is not acceptable to our residents.”