Performance-Based Funding Formula Threatens JAUNT Service - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Performance-Based Funding Formula Threatens JAUNT Service

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A pair of proposed bills going through the General Assembly is threatening to cut state cash to mass transit agencies that aren't packing buses with passengers. That means central Virginia JAUNT riders could face fewer days on the road.

Donna Shaunesey, JAUNT's executive director, took part in the transit study committee. She says the recommendations of Virginia's smaller mass transit agencies were ignored by these bills. Now, JAUNT wants the state to delay any changes to the funding formula.

JAUNT riders in central Virginia risk losing a day of service if proposed legislation survives the House and Senate.  House bill 2070 and its Senate counterpart would change the funding formula for how the Commonwealth Transportation Board doles out state dollars. Under it, 50 percent would be based on system size and 50 percent would depend on newly-created performance measures.

34th District Senator Chapman Petersen (D) stated, "Right now, everything's done based on historics [sic]. We're going to try to incentivize those systems that really do well by giving them more money."

Lawmakers propose reviewing ridership and numbers of riders per dollar spent by a transit system.

Petersen said, "No one actually looks at how are they spending money. Are they attracting ridership? Are they marketing? Are they using money efficiently?"

Shaunesey says smaller, on-demand services like hers could lose the most because they don't pack in passengers on every trip.

Shaunesey said, "They're saying they want these performance indicators so we can do better. But, the only way we can do better is by not doing the very services we were created to carry out."

The Charlottesville-based bus service would face a 35 percent cut in state funding based on the fluctuating formula.

Shaunesey stated, "It's going to go up and down. If the people we're competing against lose some funding, we'll gain some. Or if they all of a sudden get way more efficient, we'll lose funding."

Shaunesey is lobbying lawmakers to delay changing the formula, especially when cities and counties can't fill the funding gap.

Shaunesey said, "There's no way they can come up with that kind of money. The people who pay the price will be the riders."

The bill's Senate writer says he wants to build in money so no agency loses funds right away while the performance measures are being developed. Right now, both bills have been referred to committees.

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