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Public speaks out against possible CENTRO service cuts

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
CENTRO held a hearing at the Oncenter in Syracuse, one in a series regarding potential service cuts.

Dozens of Central New Yorkers concerned about potential service cuts from CENTRO turned out at a public hearing on the issue at the Oncenter in Syracuse, for the biggest in a series of hearings on the issue so far.

Brianna Jiles of Liverpool rides a CENTRO bus just about every day. She’s upset with potential changes that would take away late night, Sunday and holiday services in order for the bus company to make up a $4.5 million budget gap.

“I don’t know how people are going to get to work, to school. It’s bad for college students and G-E-D students. It’s very depressing,” said Jiles.

CENTRO is being forced to consider cutbacks because its usual funding sources have been decreasing in recent years.

Lovana Byrd-Mcguire of Liverpool, also attended the hearing and says the proposed cuts will have a big impact on her life, because she relies on the bus service.

“I work two jobs and I’m a mom. I have three kids and I go to college. And Saturdays and Sundays are my free days where I can go shopping and go to church. And other days they’re talking about cutting schedules -- it’s going to affect a lot of things on my schedules,” said Byrd-Mcguire.

State lawmakers are considering coming to the rescue, looking at $25 million in funding for transit systems across upstate like CENTRO that have been struggling. The funding would rely on sales taxes, and it’s being considered in the budget negotiations in play now in Albany.  

Howie Hawkins, a Green Party activist and former candidate for governor argued that transportation is a human right.

“Public transit is a lifeline, particularly for people in Syracuse. One-third of our people don’t have cars, they rely on mass transit,” said Hawkins. “And when you cut evenings and weekends, you’re basically putting people on curfew. And when you have a Sunday job, your’re out of luck, what do you got to do?”

CENTRO officials say they are cautiously optimistic that there will be some relief before they need to make the service cutback decision later this spring. They won’t make that decision until after the state budget is approved. The deadline for the budget is April 1.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.