Burbank decides to phase out youth bus, Metro subsidy for seniors
The "Got Wheels!" bus is slated to be phased out as part of a cost cutting proposal approved on Tuesday. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / February 17, 2011)
Got Wheels! — Burbank’s summer bus system for youth — will run for one last summer before it’s axed, and the Metro bus pass subsidy for seniors will be phased out over the next two years, the City Council decided Tuesday.
Together, the two programs cost about $96,000 and are supported by Proposition A funds, which are generated through a countywide half-cent sales tax.
The goal is to free up funds for the city’s popular senior and disabled bus, which logs roughly 75,000 trips a year, officials said.
While roughly 2,000 kids are registered to use Got Wheels! — the summer bus line for 10- to 18-year-olds that circulates to schools, skate parks, libraries, malls and community centers — officials recorded just 475 trips over a two-month period last summer.
The program costs roughly $61,000 to operate each year and has found itself on the edge of being eliminated or suspended more than once over the years due to budget concerns.
Even so, one Hillside resident, Trina Unzicker, said Got Wheels! is an important service for youth, including her 12-year-old son, who is looking forward to riding the bus to basketball camp, the community pool and to meet friends along the route.
“Now comes the threat that this service won’t be available to kids like him who have earned a little independence, but still need the safety of a small, predictable and easily manageable bus route,” she said.
Unzicker said she also supports the bus pass subsidy, which allows seniors to ride the Metro bus for $7 a month at a $35,000 cost to the city.
“I don’t mind using our tax dollars to subsidize our vulnerable seniors, who frequently need to save every dollar they can for shelter, food and healthcare,” she said.
Roughly 300 line up every month to buy the pass, according to city officials.
The transit access pass actually costs users $75 for 30 days, but the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority charges just $14 for seniors.
Burbank for years has further reduced the cost for its seniors to $7.
Mel Klugman, who along with a dozen other seniors lines up 30 minutes before the window opens every month, fought Tuesday to keep the subsidy — at least partially.
“It obviously means a lot to these people who stand in line and take two buses to get there,” Klugman said.
For a year starting July 1, the Metro bus pass will cost Burbank seniors $10 — not the full $14 senior rate — with the city subsidizing $3 of the cost to the tune of roughly $11,000, the City Council decided.
The following year, Burbank will drop its subsidy completely, which means the pass will cost $14 a month, but will still be available for purchase at the Joslyn Center.
Councilmen David Gordon and Bob Frutos voted against the change.
“I think we’re doing our seniors a disservice by not having a heart for them,” Frutos said.