Last Tuesday marked Earline Roots' 12th anniversary as a Heilman Dining Center cook. Throughout each of those years she has relied on the Route 16 bus to get to and from work, unless she could find a carpool. But come January 2010, the route reduction within the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) will change that.
"It's going to be awful because a lot of people depend on the bus for their only transportation," Roots said.
Roots is one of the 60 to 70 bus-dependent University of Richmond employees who will be affected by the Oct. 26 Richmond City Council vote to reduce GRTC service, said Carl Sorensen, associate vice president of human resources. Route 16 runs between campus and downtown. The proposed reductions - to eliminate the bus service on weekends, during the middle of weekdays and after 6:30 p.m. - must be finalized by the end of the month in order to take effect in January.
But the 12 dining services and 50 facilities employees who rely on the bus will need to work past 6:30 p.m. and on weekends, Roots said. Sorensen said employees had attended city council meetings with him and had even spoken during the meetings to convey their dependence on the bus.
"Some people might lose their jobs," Sorensen said.
Sorensen has also received visits, phone calls and e-mails from law school students who need the bus to get to campus, as well as undergraduate students who use it to travel downtown for community service and recreation. Route 16 has also become important for the development of UR Downtown, the satellite campus in Richmond that was completed in March.
Sophomore Stephanie Granderson is upset about the reductions because she relies on the bus to get back from her community service site when she wants to stay longer than the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement shuttles allow. She also uses it to visit her friend at Virginia Commonwealth University and to go downtown to eat, shop and attend festivals.
"My options now [that] the buses don't come around at convenient times anymore are narrowed down to nothing," Granderson wrote in an e-mail. "I'm trying to utilize it all that I can before I'm tied down to the campus, only to compete for the Spider Shuttle seats on the weekends at limited times."
Roots said the route reductions could cost employees their jobs, stressing that they couldn't be late for work. In dining services, a point system tracks lateness and absences, although suspensions and terminations are rare, Jerry Clemmer, general manager of the dining hall, wrote in an e-mail. Roots said she hoped the university would get shuttles to transport employees who would lose their means to get to and from work come January.
Sorensen said the university had been looking into solutions, but that the immediate issue was to work with GRTC to devise a route schedule to accommodate the most riders.
Despite enacting a swipe-card system during spring 2008 to let Richmond students and employees ride for free, the university was not able to provide enough riders to lift Route 16 out of its ranking as one of the worst-performing GRTC routes, Sorensen said. The city council voted for route reductions and eliminations to help GRTC minimize its budget deficit.
Sorensen attributed the regional transportation problem to the lack of municipal funding. Although GRTC receives money from fares and the federal government, the only county that subsidizes it is the city of Richmond. To sustain GRTC, other counties or a regional group would need to contribute money.
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"I don't know how it's going to work going forward," Sorensen said.
Contact staff writer Maura Bogue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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