The Middletown Area Transit District conducted a public hearing last night, to get reactions to
possible cuts in service and increases in costs for the buses serving our city. Over 75 people came out to express their opposition to these cuts.
The lead administrator of MAT, Lisa Seymour, told the assembled crowd that the Governor had proposed a budget that would cut funding to small regional public transportation services like MAT by 15%, while not reducing at all the funding for CTtransit, which operates public transportation in the larger cities of the state.
The speakers came from a wide cross section of the community. Students at Middlesex Community College spoke about their dependence on the bus for their education. Elderly residents spoke about their dependence on the bus for getting to medical care, and on the impact rising fares would have on people with a fixed income. People with disabilities spoke about how the bus allowed them to hold a job that kept them off of welfare.
Representatives of social services told of the hardships that the people they serve would face if they lost transportation. Leaders in the business community pointed out that employers such as FedEx and Walmart would have more trouble hiring workers if the bus service was inadequate.
Most speakers expressed outrage that cuts in service and increases in fares would be even considered, when so many of the wealthiest were paying so little in taxes. Gary Lambert, a full time student at Middlesex Community College, asked, "Why pick on the bottom?" Eric Samson, an adjunct professor at Middlesex Community College said, "We are in a blame-the-poor political climate."
The director of the regional council of governments in our area, Sam Gold, suggested that residents contact the governor and their state representatives to urge more equitable funding for Middletown Area Transit.
Few elected officials attended the public hearing. Councilmen Robert Santangelo and Sebastian Giuliano spoke about the importance of the bus to the city. Amy Albert read a statement from State Representative Matt Lesser, who could not attend because he was at the State Capitol voting on important issues. Lesser wrote, "I want area residents to know that I strongly oppose the proposed cuts to MAT service.... I am working with Middletown's delegation to do everything possible to protect MAT service."
Mayor Dan Drew was the last to speak, first arriving almost two hours after the start of the public hearing. He explained the budgetary process, saying the legislature was now going through the budget proposed by the governor. He pointed to other demands on the state budget, "There are so many important needs that aren't being met because the money isn't there."
Drew said it would be hard to get the money returned to local public transportation, "This is like gravity, and gravity is a lot stronger in some places than others .... And pulling the money back is hard."
But he reiterated that our city's legislators were working hard to fix this.
There were no representatives from the State Department of Transportation present.