A last-ditch effort by the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority to obtain continued funding for its easygo Lake Transit system has failed and the last bus should run Saturday night.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority on Wednesday rejected an RBA plea to fund the agency just hours after the Lake County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution urging the Indiana General Assembly to provide transit funding.
RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna made it plain on Wednesday the commission's resolution fell well short of an RDA requirement a guarantee of local funding be secured before his agency could provide stop-gap funding for the RBA.
"The resolution we received today did not meet that requirement," Hanna said when contacted by The Times. "It's simply speculating on whether the Legislature would act after January of next year and gives us no certainty."
The RBA took over and greatly expanded the Hammond Transit System two years ago using multimillion-dollar subsidies granted by the RDA.
RBA Executive Director Tim Brown told his board of directors at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday the RDA had rejected a request to meet in emergency session this week. That rejection came after he took a letter outlining the commission's action and how it might result in funding for the agency.
"This was the last option we had to use that resolution to receive one last year of funding from the RDA," Brown told his directors. "There is nothing to do but shut the bus service down."
The change in state tax law supported by the Lake County commissioners could conceivably raise $5 million for local transit. It would raise the money by closing a loophole in a low-income homeowner tax credit.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. was the only local mayor to heed the RDA's call to turn his city's bus system over to a regional operator two years ago. Gary Public Transit Corp. and East Chicago Transit each resisted that call.
"We are very disappointed obviously," said Robert Lendi, Hammond City Controller and an RBA board member. "The city of Hammond feels strongly about transit. We feel this is a failure of government on all levels."
Several people in the public comment section of the meeting expressed their disappointment with the RBA.
"I feel you kind of avoided the 2,000-pound gorilla in the room," transit rider Linda Outlaw said. "We knew a white knight might not come to save the RBA. But where was Plan B?"