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Transit budget Rides Up 3.5 Percent

The Representative Town Meeting Transit Committee approved a 3.5 percent increase in the town's 2010 to 2011 public transit budget.

Committee Chairman Stephen Rubin said, "The services that we will get are worth more than $1 million and we will only pay a quarter of that."

Westport operates as part of the The Norwalk Transit District and receives 80 percent of its funding from federal and state government sources. Westport's contribution to the $1.4 million budget will only be $281,158, an increase of $9,508 over last year.

Labor and fringe benefits comprise the majority of the budget with insurance being one of the largest line items. Some of the fringe benefits include allowances for glasses that aren't covered under the insurance plan.

Norwalk Transit District Director of Finance and Administrative Services Stephen Hill said, "Our employees have a very rich plan."

Some of the budget revenue comes from collected fares for the various bus and shuttle services. Westport's percentage of active riders is too low for that to be a significant income stream. "The revenue that comes into the fare box is never sufficient," Norwalk Transit District Administrator Louis Schulman said.

Other options for revenue include advertising, but Westport's ridership is too small to attract advertisers. Also, restrictions on advertising content further reduce national advertisers willingness to invest in bus advertisements.

Schulman noted a number of improvements planned for the buses. One is an automatic vehicle locator system that would allow riders to check online to see exactly where their bus is and when it will arrive at their stop. Such capital improvements won't cost the town according to Schulman.

Director of the Westport Transit District Bud Titsworth said he is pleased with the budget. The Board of Finance had originally aimed to cut $10,000 from the transit budget. Titsworth noted that a $10,000 cut would have caused a ripple-effect that would see the town lose $30,000 in matching funds.

The committee approved the budget with no changes.

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