Bus drivers and others at easygo Lake Transit have been told they could be laid off by June 30 if no local funding is found to rescue the sinking Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority.
The RBA also has told its employees June 30 will be their last day if pleas for local tax or other funds go unheeded, according to RDA Executive Director Tim Brown.
"We are shutting down," Brown told a Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission committee Tuesday in Portage. "There is no prospect of any funding I can think of at this point."
First Transit, which staffs easygo Lake Transit buses under contract with the RBA, has filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice with the state and city of Hammond informing them up to 46 total employees could be let go at its Hammond location if the RBA is not rescued.
Three years ago, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. was the only local mayor to agree to turn his city's bus agency over to the RBA. In early 2010, the RBA took over Hammond Transit and renamed it easygo. In the summer of that year it expanded the bus service and ridership has since doubled to 30,000 per month.
Brown said the RBA still is providing free bus rides from the Dan Rabin Travel Plaza, in Hammond, to the Lake County Council meeting on May 15. RBA supporters plan to issue a plea for support at the meeting.
Brown told members of NIRPC's Transportation Policy Committee on Tuesday that the one ray of hope in the situation remains a memorandum of understanding signed by the mayors of Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. The three pledged to cooperate on providing transit services for region residents, but the memo contains no specific plan for merging or consolidating bus agencies.
A means will have to be found to keep the Dan Rabin Travel Plaza operating in the event the RBA goes out of business, Brown said. PACE buses make about 40 stops per day there to take people to jobs, schools and shopping in Chicago's south suburbs.
Gary Public Transportation Corp. and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson both continue to look for ways to keep the easygo services provided to Hammond and some suburbs going, GPTC Marketing and Planning Director David Wright told the GPTC committee.
"We don't want to see a reduction in transit in Northwest Indiana," Wright said.
But like with the RBA, the crux of the problem is finding money to keep the easygo Lake Transit system running, Wright said.