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Got Wheels finds another gear

Council asks staff to find alternatives to eliminating program that shuttles kids.

February 18, 2011|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com
  • A line, with about 25 David Starr Jordan Middle School students, get onto the City of Burbank Park and Recreation Department's Youth Transportation Program "Got Wheels!" bus on the corner of Main Street and Cedar Avenue in Burbank on Thursday, February 17, 2011.
A line, with about 25 David Starr Jordan Middle School… ((Tim Berger/Staff…)

Students in Burbank may have a reliable set of wheels a little longer than expected after the Burbank City Council issued a stay of execution on the Got Wheels program on Tuesday night.

The council voted unanimously to direct city officials to return with alternatives to cutting the program that shuttles roughly 120 children each day around the city after school either to the library, home or activities at parks or the Boys and Girls Club.

Amid falling revenues and a tight fiscal outlook, Community Development Department staff suggested cutting the $341,000 program in order to prolong the life of other services, such as transit services geared for Burbank seniors and disabled residents.

Proposition A revenue, which funds the Got Wheels program, could be exhausted by mid-2012, according to the city.

The suggestion to cut the program spurred an outcry by parents who say they rely on Got Wheels to transport their children safely home while they are at work.

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“The loss of the Got Wheels program would mean that if I am not available to pick up my daughter from school, she would have to walk 1.5 miles to get home along a very busy street,” said Burbank resident Terra Wellington. “As a working mom, I have relied on the Got Wheels program for many years to help my children get home more safely and quickly.”

Speakers on Tuesday night echoed Wellington’s concerns, with middle school students and parents voicing protests to the proposal citing safety as their No. 1 concern.

The City Council was receptive to the outcry and asked officials to explore other alternatives.

“Instead of taking an ax to this, you can take a paring knife and improve things here and there and probably get things down to a pretty low-cost program,” said Mayor Anja Reinke.

She suggested combining Got Wheels with the BurbankBus program, instituting a nominal fee for students, reducing the route to allow increased circulation or privatizing the program.

Officials reported that it was used nearly 45,000 times during the last fiscal year and is on track to provide just under 40,000 rides for the current fiscal year.

Councilman Dave Golonski was adamantly against eliminating the student transit and called for realigning other transportation funds and finding other revenues to continue the program.

At $7.64 per rider, Got Wheels operates at nearly twice the cost as a BurbankBus, which transports each passenger for $4.24, according to city records.

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