After a 15-month long battle, the BFT Board has finally put proposals that would reduce agency’s revenue to rest
(TRI-CITIES, WA) In a 7-2 decision, the Ben Franklin Transit Board rejected moving forward with a ballot initiative that would have slashed transit funding and services for residents in the Tri-Cities region, resulting in dozens of layoffs. The proposed cuts would have also disqualified the agency from receiving $75 million in new state-level Transit Support Grant funding.
The Board’s decision comes after a 15-month-long grassroots campaign against the proposed funding cuts, led by Tri-Cities community members and local organizations representing business, education, labor, public health, social justice, and the environment and supported by Transportation Choices Coalition.
“We are relieved that the Ben Franklin Transit Board has finally decided to listen to Tri-Cities residents demanding the Board keep vital transit services whole,” said Alex Hudson, Executive Director at Transportation Choices Coalition. “Hundreds of people made public comments and sent thousands of letters to Board members; all against the harmful and unnecessary cuts. Today’s victory is a win for all people living in the Tri-Cities region who depend on essential transit services to get them to where they need to go.”
“People in the Tri-Cities have a reasonable expectation that their transit agency board is there to do the hard work of delivering excellent transit service, not to waste valuable time trying to dismantle a system that serves over a million riders a year. We look forward to working with the BFT Board in the future to ensure that Tri-Cities residents can count on affordable, fast, frequent, and reliable transit service now and in the future.”
Russell Shjerven, the Secretary Treasurer for the Teamsters Local Union No. 839, said the board’s decision means job security for hundreds of workers plus millions in state funding for Tri-Cities transit:
“This has been a long fight with the Board of Directors,” said Shjerven. “Teamsters Local 839 is happy that the BFT Board has decided to not only maintain its current funding stream but has the wisdom to position itself to receive an additional $75 million over the next fifteen years to keep our Local Transit Authority solvent into the future.”
“This is a big victory for the community; a big victory for the citizens of Benton and Franklin counties who rely on the paratransit system; a big victory for the 300 Teamsters members who will not be facing layoffs.”
Vanessa Pruitt of Kennewick, a fellow with Disability Rights Washington and a regular BFT rider, said the Board’s decision tonight will protect those who need services the most:
“Benton Franklin Transit provides an invaluable service to those in need, including non-drivers and disabled individuals,” said Pruitt. “I myself depend on Ben Franklin Transit and have for many years. Disability Rights Washington applauds the Board’s decision to reject the proposed ballot measure that, if passed, would have created a serious lack of mobility for our community. Tonight, the BFT Board made the moral choice and stood with riders.”
Transportation Choices Coalition is a policy and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to making transportation accessible to all in Washington State. We champion policies that support more transit, bike, and pedestrian improvements at the state, regional, and local levels.