Monday, March 30, 2009

Tonight's the Night

It’s hard to know what to expect at tonight’s Laketran public hearing, the first of four regarding the agency’s fare increases and service cuts. Picket signs and protest or crickets?

It’s been two weeks since the agency announced a plethora of changes, including a $1 increase in Commuter Express rides, a bump from $6 to $13 for Dial-a-Ride, and the complete elimination of Saturday services. With that type of proposal on the table, in addition to more increases next year, complaints have piled. Will they be repeated tonight at the Perry Public Library?

You would think so. After all, some believe Laketran should have consoled voters before its board of trustees approved the “financial recovery plan,” while others have even alleged that it’s about greed instead of a dwindling economy. This story has more than 50 comments, many of them angry over the proposal that will hurt wallets and alter schedules.

That surely sounds like a recipe for dozens of furious riders showing up tonight to voice displeasure. But consider last year when Laketran announced a 50 cent increase for Commuter Express and a $2 rise for Dial-a-Ride. I could count on one hand the amount of people who attended the meeting I went to at the Willoughby Public Library.

I didn’t make it to the others, and transcripts revealed more attendees, but they in no way approached the number of calls, e-mails and story comments I viewed prior to the hearings. Simply put, if you’re angry, step up. Otherwise, what can you really say?

It’s true that Board President J. Terrell Dillard said deviation from the original proposal isn’t likely (the board will vote on it in May), but what will Laketran do if riders come out in record numbers? I really doubt they would disregard that and move on as planned. A compromise could be reached.

However, some won’t find out if they’re just content writing comments on News-Herald stories after the fact.

--Brandon C. Baker

Photo: Maribeth Joeright

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