On Monday, May 7, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will vote on whether to override a $60,000 cut in funds, in order to fully restore Westport’s Transit District budget. A 70 percent vote is needed in order to override the Board of Finance cuts. What’s at stake is the future of the commuter shuttle routes serving Westport’s Greens Farms and Saugatuck train stations.
The Board of Finance initially slashed $113,753,
or nearly half of next year’s transit budget, allowing just one commuter route to remain, running between the Imperial Avenue parking lot and the
Saugatuck (Westport Metro-North) train station. On April 11, the board voted to restore $53,753 on the condition that ways to make the system more efficient are instituted over the next six months.
Westport is a popular town for New York commuters. According to the Westport CERC (Connecticut Economic Resource Center) Town Profile for 2011, more than 2,200 or nearly 20 percent of the town’s employed labor force commutes to Manhattan. Another 10 percent are commuters to Stamford and Greenwich, albeit many of them choose to drive.
High on the list of questions asked by potential home buyers who commute to New York City is, "how long will it take to get a railroad parking permit?" Upon hearing that there is a four to five year wait, they want to know what other options are available for getting to or parking at the train station. The options for parking at the station are not too encouraging. There are eleven town parking lots, eight at Saugatuck and three at Greens Farms, with a total of 1781 spaces. Of these, only 289 are $5/day, daily parking spaces and they are usually filled during the earliest commuting times. There are also private lots at the Westport/Saugatuck station but the cost becomes prohibitive if used over an extended period of time.
What alleviates the concern about parking is hearing that Westport has a commuter shuttle bus, with routes throughout the town. Clearly, it makes Westport more attractive to the commuting buyer.
Although the commuter shuttle service is used by a small percentage of Westport residents, the loss of this town amenity could affect all homeowners. Making the town less attractive to commuters might negatively impact Westport home values. Westporters are encouraged to contact the RTM at RTMMailingList@westportct.gov and ask them to restore the full transit budget.