April 23, 2020
The Asheville Regional Transit Coalition (ARTC) is grateful for City leadership as Asheville continues to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis. We understand that this situation is unprecedented and challenging for everyone involved. In particular, as transit advocates, we applaud the City for making Asheville Rides Transit (ART) routes temporarily fare-free in response to this sudden economic downturn, for improving rider safety by limiting bus ridership, and for investing in greater cleaning precautions and shields for drivers while at work.
We present the following requests to further improve the City’s response in this moment for the benefit of Asheville’s transit-dependent community.
1. Response Plan For Transit-Dependent Residents Impacted By System Cuts
Since the onset of COVID-19, ART routes have been cut back, and the number of passengers permitted on buses has been restricted to no more than nine passengers per bus. As a result, many Asheville residents who depend on ART have lost their only form of affordable transportation to access work, the grocery store, medical appointments and other essential needs. These transit-dependent residents include many of the essential workers our city is depending on during this crisis.
Therefore, we request that the City develop an action plan by no later than May 1 to support transit-dependent residents who have lost service due to routes being cut or who are left behind at stops due to passenger restrictions. We urge the City to explore the following options to meet this need:
In addition, to better understand how many riders are being left at bus stops and how often, we ask that RATP Dev be tasked with formally tracking this information. Since drivers are already instructed to call dispatch every time riders are left behind, it should be simple to keep a formal record of these instances.
2. Budget Allocations For CARES Act Public Transit Funding
In the same time period that pandemic-related challenges have emerged for our transit system and riders, so has a new source of public transit funding: the CARES Act. This $2 trillion-federal assistance package passed in response to the pandemic includes allocations for local transit systems like ART. The CARES Act designates approximately $3.3 million in public transit funding to the City of Asheville, and $2.2 million to fund transit in Buncombe County.
In its budget planning for FY2020 and FY2021, we strongly urge the City to spend the CARES Act funds in the following ways:
We request that the City Manager provide a proposal for how to spend the CARES Act transit funds before or at the budget briefing on May 12.
The Asheville Regional Transit Coalition
Children First/Communities In Schools
Just Economics of WNC
Pisgah Legal Services
“When you can’t afford a vehicle, public transit serves as a portal to just about everything — food, healthcare, work, school and more. At least, that’s how transit advocates believe it should work.”
Asheville’s new Transit Master Plan will expand and modernize Asheville’s transit system over the next ten years. Thank you Asheville City Council for approving it!
Back in April, the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition sent a letter to the Asheville City Council asking them to improve the Asheville bus service by increasing transit funding by $5 million over the next five years. We are thrilled to report they have approved a substantial budget expansion for the next fiscal year! Read More
The City is currently in the midst of planning for next year’s budget. This process provides some important opportunities to put Asheville on track for transit that operates in more areas, for longer hours, seven days a week. Read the letter we just sent City Council asking for dedicated funding in service of those goals and raising some important concerns related to those goals, and send your own message to City Council at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov