The demise of the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority is getting closer and closer. It is not too late for a rescue, but we've already reached the last minute.
What will happen to the riders if the agency is allowed to shut down June 30 for lack of funding?
Layoff notices went out last week to all RBA employees, giving them notice that unless someone comes to the agency's rescue, their jobs will disappear by June 30. The loss of those jobs is bad enough. But the loss of the service would be devastating for the riders.
Not providing bus service — either fixed-route, paratransit or demand response — to the RBA's riders means cutting them off from shopping, medical and dental services, and employment opportunities. That would harm not only those individuals' prospects for the future, but the region's economic recovery as well.
It also means the dream of uniting the region in support of a basic government service — transportation for people who either cannot or should not or choose not to drive their own vehicle — will suffer immensely. The dream of unity might not die, but it would most definitely be on life support.
When The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority was created, among its responsibilities was to foster consolidation of bus service within the region. But the RDA is not a permanent funding source for the RBA; the RDA is supposed to help with start-up costs. It's up to officials in Lake and, ultimately, Porter counties to provide the wherewithal to fund a truly regional system.
Before the balkanization that has plagued the region for decades claims yet another victim, there's one last cause for hope, however slim. The RBA's Save Our Buses campaign will take public transit supporters by bus from the Dan Rabin Travel Plaza in Gary to the Lake County Council's meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Lake County Government Complex in Crown Point.
If the Lake County Council won't commit to providing a permanent funding source for the RBA and its efforts, it will be a dark day for the region.
It's important that a funding solution be found to continue providing fixed-route, paratransit and demand response bus operations well into the future.