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Riders upset about RVTD route cancellations

City officials and valley residents hit Rogue Valley Transportation District board members with tough questions Thursday night as part of a hearing to gauge what people want from their bus service.

The meeting, held at the Medford library, came a week after the RVTD board agreed to ask voters to approve a payroll tax as early as November 2008.

Several people, including Cheryl Nadler-Voss, of Talent, were critical of RVTD's decision to eliminate Route 4 in Medford, which serves Rogue Valley Medical Center. The route will disappear in September after a $65,000 emergency grant runs out.

"I feel that our mass transit system is very important for our outlying communities," she said. RVTD made the cuts to deal with a $1.2 million shortfall in its 2006-07 budget. It also doubled fares July — to $2 and eliminated Route 5 in Ashland.

Ashland resident Nancie Ozimkowski, who is blind and a frequent bus rider, said cutting Route 4 severely limits the ability of disabled people to travel the Rogue Valley.

"Once Route 4 is cut people who need Valley Lift who live along the route will be without transportation," she said. "This includes anyone who need to go to RVMC."

Valley Lift is a dispatch service that picks up disabled and elderly people. It had 1.2 million riders last year and could see a 20 percent drop in ridership, officials said.

One major point brought up by many was the need for RVTD to reach out to businesses for funding. One possible solution, suggested by city officials, was pasting advertisements on the sides of the buses.

Another sticking point was a call for more transparency concerning RVTD's finances. Medford City Councilman Skip Knight and Central Point City Councilwoman Kay Harrison said the bus service needed to make its business plan available as quickly as possible.

RVTD general manager Peter Jacobsen assured the crowd of around 50 that they were indeed working on a far-sighted business plan that he hoped would be made available soon.

Jacobsen and RVTD board member Joel Marks ended the meeting by telling the audience they would seriously consider the many options presented to them and would bring possible answers before each city.