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February 24, 2006     Cape Gazette
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February 24, 2006
 

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5- ~E m [] iiii CAPE GAZETTE - Friday, Feb. 24 - Monday, Feb. 27, 2006 - 17 By Brldin Reynolds said many of their stores rely on employees who Special to the Cape Gazette need public transportation. As legislators navigate their course creating the "We are firm believers that public transportation is final state budget for fiscal 2007, public transporta- the fu.ture. It reduces pollution, simplifies traffic tion funding is a front-running issue, and local busi- problems for everyone and allows more parking hess leaders say Sussex needs a larger share of pub- spaces for our customers," said Norgata lic transportation dollars. Norgata said the few bus stops and bus stop shel- The Cape Region is one of many vying for expand- ters along the outlets were donated to DelDOT by ed public transit routes in the form of extended bus Rehoboth Outlets. "The land was deeded to the state service and possible enhanced rail service. The because in the long run we are all benefactors of it," Delaware Joint Finance Committee (JFC) heard tes- she said. timony from commuters, drivers and transportation JFC will not finalize the budget proposal until officials Feb. 21. May, but DelDOT Secretary Carolann Wicks esti- The Delaware Authority for Regional Transit mates a $6 million price tag for adding Sunday serv- (DART) provides commuter rail service, intercounty ice in New Castle and Saturday routes Kent and bus service, fixed-route bus service, paratransit serv- Sussex. ice, commuter assistance service, and the RideShare According to the DelDOT human resources Delaware Program. department, DART is already operating with an eight However, many in Sussex County say year-round percent vacancy rate so expanding routes would also and comprehensive bus routes are insufficient, require driver recruitment efforts. , Wendy O. Baker, chairwoman of the Rehoboth Schwartzkopf said the 12-member JFC board Bcaeh-Dewe~( Beach Chamber of Commerce Board understands the need for state support of DART. o/Directors Said, "We have always been appreciative "It is a given that mass transit is a money-losing and encouraged by DART's presence in Sussex proposition. You have to get past that to! evaluate the ~ounty, lint are" su~fised they did not ask for addi- services it provides to our citizens and lourists," he ~. llal:~ ~ ~t!!~ma:-Dclaware given the (level- said. ,i yfhlid what we expect in: "As far as I am concerned a state should be meas- the future." ured by how it treats those that are less fortunate or Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a member of JFC evaluating budget appropriations for the new fiscal year, said much of the Feb. 21 hearing focused on adding Sunday service in New Castle County and increased upstate service, including providing addi- tional commuter services for Maryland and Pennsylvania resi- dents who work in Wilmington. 8CItWARTZKOPI~ He said the JFC is currently reviewing new incentives to get commuters out of cars and onto public transit and hopes that will include new routes in Sussex. "In our area there is an ever-increasing need for public transportation, to reduce traffic and serve citi- zens and tourists in a very service-based economy. The need will only become greater as many move west in the county to find affordable housing," said Schwartzkopf. No fixed route is now offered in Sussex or Kent counties on weekends by DART First State, a divi- sion of the Delaware Department of Transportation, (DelDOT). Local employers would also like to see additional routes, including Tanger Outlets, formerly Rehoboth Outlets, which employs more than 800 people for its 133 stores. Tanger Outlets General Manager Amy Norgata disadvantaged. This is one of the budget items that is clearly important in that realm," he said, citing par- ticularly the ParaTransit program operatgd by DART. ParaTransit buses pick up disabled passengers at the'tr door, charging only $2 for trips to essential legal and medical appointments and reservations can be made for errands such as grocery shopping. In her proposed 2007 budget, Go~. Ruth Ann Minner allocated $72.3 million for DART, but JFC will have to evaluate if that will cover the proposed increased services. JFC member Rep. Joe DiPinto, R-Wilmington, has asked that a cost-benefit analysis he previded to the budget writing committee before any decision is final, i Baker, also a principal at Ocean Atlantic Associates, said, "We encourage the use of mass transit as an effective means of conserving our natu- ral resources and reducing the impact on our environ- ment and traffic systems." Baker said there s a growing need in the residential sector for public transportation, which i translates to more routes running west of Route 1. She also praised DART's "continued !commitment to marketing the benefits of public trar~sportation to our citizens and the understanding ofI providing a simple, user-friendly system. 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