The Central Virginian

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Throwing people under the bus?

Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 11:44 am

Many Louisa County residents don’t have a car.  Those who can’t afford this luxury, or who can’t drive for other reasons, use JAUNT services to get to work, visit doctors offices, pick up prescriptions, buy groceries and get to dialysis treatments.

These people are deeply worried about not being able to do these things when JAUNT services in Louisa are cut on July 1 because of a budget shortfall. The impacts are very real.

For some, the JAUNT bus is their only mode of transportation and some fear that they will lose their jobs because they can’t report to work each day, or healthcare needs will go un-met because they have no way to get to their appointments.

For years, there have been those in the community who have questioned the need for JAUNT transportation, some commenting that it appears to be a waste of taxpayer money.  They just haven’t talked to the people who rely on this service to understand how great the need is.

There are many people in this county who work for low wages and don’t have the means to buy a car, pay for maintenance or insurance or even put gasoline in the tank, while trying to keep a roof over their head and pay for basic necessities such as electricity, groceries and medications.

There are others whose health conditions prevent them from being able to obtain a driver’s license – such as poor vision and severe disabilities, or just plain old age-related causes.

For these people, the JAUNT bus is their only hope.  Its long reliable service has been a lifesaver to riders who can’t always depend upon the good will of neighbors, friends and family members.

The service is not free to riders.  They each pay a small fee to ride the buses, which helps JAUNT somewhat to subsidize the cost of operations.

JAUNT depends on each locality to fund a portion of the service and also receives state and federal funding, lowering the cost that counties must pay.  The Louisa County Board of Supervisors has not increased its budget for JAUNT services in three years.

Meanwhile, the cost of gasoline, maintenance and insurance the agency has to pay has risen dramatically. JAUNT has tried to provide as much service to county residents as possible over this time, but just can’t do it anymore without more funding.

The supervisors were asked for a supplement of $3,000 in December, which would have ensured steady bus service in Louisa County through June 30, but that request was turned down, forcing cuts in service in early January.

Those cuts hurt, but the reduction in services that will begin next month will create an greater hardship on the very people who need the service the most.

The need for transportation is greater today than it was three years ago, as more and more people have lost jobs or had to accept significantly lower wages during this tough economy.

These same people pay taxes in Louisa County, helping to fund needed services for schools, fire and rescue, law enforcement, social services, parks and recreation projects, and —JAUNT services.

Rural residents don’t have the benefits of those who live in more urban areas, where buses, taxi cabs and trains can help move people around and density of neighborhoods and retail and commerce is greater, allowing folks to walk where they need to go.

The supervisors need to reconsider their decision to keep funding flat for JAUNT services and take a look at the budget to see if they can find the dollars to put toward this much needed service.

We can’t just throw these Louisa residents under the bus!