"We need to reduce service by 10 percent because during the last 18 months, sales tax revenues have fallen off significantly, while our costs continue to rise," said Senior Transit Planner Roger Hanson.
Sales tax revenues pay more than 70 percent of the cost to run the Regional Transportation Commission's Ride and Access buses, while rider fares fund most of the remaining costs.
Nearly all bus routes will be cut in some way, and all Sparks routes will be redesigned or face cuts.
Many of the proposed changes redesign Sparks routes to continue service in busy areas, while cutting low ridership areas and route times. All of these changes will go into effect in October, corresponding with the opening of the Sparks RTC Centennial Plaza bus transfer center.
Many routes also needed shifting because Centennial Plaza will add a few minutes onto bus routes, which will seriously affect bus transfer times that are closely coordinated to cut wait times, Hanson said. Some more direct routes will be added to increase rider convenience by shortening the reach of some routes to decrease rider times, and adding a direct route from Meadowood Mall to the new Centennial Plaza.
Convenience is key for people who have the option to drive a car or ride the bus to work. As bus routes are shuffled and some areas eliminated to fit under a smaller public transit budget, some worry that bus ridership numbers will also drop.
Inevitable with this high rate of cuts is that it will lead to inconvenience for some people who ride less-traveled routes or at less-traveled times.
"With less convenience and less reach, we expect to lose 3-5 percent of ridership," Hanson said.
It is likely that all bus routes will see cuts in October, Hanson said. In addition, service in two areas will be completely redesigned: Sparks service (Routes 2, 11, 11X, 21, 22, 25 and 26) and the North Valleys (Routes 5, 7, 10, 17 and 37) where service will be reduced by 15 percent.
Parts of the current routing used by these buses may lose service completely, such as parts of Vista Boulevard (Route 22), the north end of Lemmon Valley (Route 17), direct service between the University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College (Route 10), Red Rock Road and Silver Lake Road west of Stead Boulevard (Route 37).
Along Vista Boulevard, bus riders will still be able to reach Northern Nevada Medical Center and Wild Island, but will no longer be able to reach the Vista Medical Terrace, Hanson said.
For people who can't afford the cost of owning and operating a car, or rely on bus service every day, they say they will adjust to the changes as long as bus service isn't eliminated.
Carolyn Ding, a sophomore at Reed High School, said she takes the bus in the afternoons from Reed to her home.
Ding said she is fairly reliant on bus routes 21 and 22 every day, "because I could get a ride from friends, but I'd rather not burden them."
The route changes under consideration may actually help her get home faster, because some bus routes that routinely run late because of traffic will be redesigned to streamline arrival and departure times at the Sparks bus transfer station.
"Sometimes the buses are too close together," Ding said. "I missed the second bus because the other one was late."
Ding's ride home takes about an hour if she doesn't miss her second bus at Citistation — something that won't be affected by the redesigned routes.
MaryAnn McDaniels said she relies on the bus as her only source of independent transportation. McDaniels stopped driving last August because she is getting older and said she has no direct bus service to her home near Wingfield Springs.
She was able to qualify for RTC Access service — a bus that provides service to seniors and the disabled and does not follow a specific timed route pattern like the RTC Ride buses.
"They're helping me get to this station so I can go to Reno or to the Raley's on Pyramid Way," McDaniels said.
When McDaniels needs to go to the grocery store, doctor appointments or wants to get some fresh air and explore the city, she calls RTC Access one day ahead of time and a bus takes her to the Sparks Citistation.
McDaniels said she is uncertain how the bus service cuts will affect her jaunts into the city.
"The RTC, I guess, is doing the best they can," McDaniels said.
Previously, the RTC Board of Commissioners approved fare hikes and a separate 1.65 percent bus service cut, that both go into effect on Sunday.
Starting on Sunday, the fare hike for a one-time ticket with free transfer within two hours will rise from $1.75 for adults to $2. The seniors/disabled cost will rise from 85 cents to $1. A 31-day pass for adults will rise from $64.50 to $70, and for seniors will rise from $32.25 to $35.
All public comments will be shown to the RTC board during a public hearing on May 16 at 9 a.m. at RTC offices at 2050 Villanova Dr. in Reno. Any board-approved changes in bus service will go into effect in October. For more information, call 348-0400 or visit rtcwashoe.com.