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Wheels come off transport program

Service designed for city┬┐s youth falls victim to slow economy.

May 31, 2011|By Maria Hsin
  • 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. The bus, which is tentatively scheduled to pick the kids up at 3:05, didn't arrive until 4:00 today. The bus program is one of the programs the City of Burbank may cut from the budget. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
A line, with about 25 David Starr Jordan Middle School…

A bus service geared toward local youth may be destined to end this summer after a transportation task force determined last week that it no longer is financially viable.

The Got Wheels! bus service was intended to transport young people around the city, but money for the program has dwindled to the point that officials say it no longer makes financial sense.

Jim Moore of Moore and Associates, a transit consultant for the city, said last week that other cities with programs similar to Got Wheels! have already ended them.

“I think it’s a program that has run its course,” Moore said.

Funding for Got Wheels! comes from a portion of sales taxes, but the slow economic recovery has put a dent in available money for cities in Los Angeles County, and many don’t have resources to backfill the loss.

Strong competition for money from BurbankBus, a service that many seniors use for door-to-door transportation to recreation centers and other appointments, also is not helping Got Wheels! Seniors came out en masse in March to protest any cuts to their services to help fund Got Wheels!

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City officials have discussed other options for saving Got Wheels! — including reducing the number of buses, or consolidating the lines under the BurbankBus system — but commissioners said none of the scenarios would save enough money to keep the program alive.

Even under the most optimistic cost-saving scenarios, officials still would need nearly $400,000 to continue the program, according to a report to the commission.

Just 120 of the roughly 15,000 students in Burbank use Got Wheels! and many them use the service to get to and from school, which is not what it was intended for, said Transportation Commission Chairman Paul Dyson.

Continuing Got Wheels! could threaten the other bus services as budget shortfalls plague other city departments, officials said.

“We have to look at the big picture,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said. “We have to take a look at everything and not take ownership of one program at the detriment of the two others.”

While the majority of the task force agreed during a meeting last week that the Got Wheels! program no longer is viable, some members said they were open to the idea of agreements with agencies such as the YMCA, which currently picks up students from area schools for various programs, should the City Council direct officials to research the matter.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss cancelling the Got Wheels! service during a meeting on June 7.
 
 

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