On March 28, the Westport Board of Finance voted to slash $114,000 from the $248,000 commuter transit budget, ensuring the demise of all commuter shuttle routes to the train station save those from the Imperial Avenue lot. While the board on April 11 restored $53,000, it came with strings attached and a loss of $180,000 in state-funded matching dollars.

You might think this doesn't effect you. Perhaps you drive to work. Maybe you already have a parking permit at the railroad lots and don't have to endure the current five-year wait for a permit. Maybe you think saving the taxpayers $114,000 out of the $73.5 million budget the BOF approved is a good thing. But looking at the ripple effect caused by largely shutting down the public transit in this town, you might arrive at a different decision.

More than 200 families, mostly in Westport, rely on the commuter shuttles. Imagine all of those commuters being forced to either get rides to and from the station, or drive to the Imperial Lot daily. If you think rush-hour congestion is bad now, imagine adding potentially hundreds of cars a day to our already congested roads. This will add more time to everyone's commute -- those who drive to work, those who have permits, and those who will now be forced to use the Imperial lot. This will affect your quality of life.

Are you a Westport homeowner who wants to maintain high property values? Or perhaps you're trying to sell your house due to a job or life change? Almost every shuttle user bought a home based on proximity to the shuttle lines. There is currently a five-year wait for a parking permit at the station. If a potential home buyer needs to use the train to get to work, the prospect of either taking cabs, parking at the day lot for $5 a day, or using the expensive private lots is daunting and cost prohibitive. For many, it would take Westport out of home-buying consideration. In a weak economy, a shuttle service to and from the station makes Westport stand out from other area towns as something special and desirable. The shuttle sells homes in Westport. Everyone profits.

This service is available to every resident in Westport. It, like the Westport Public Library and the Center for Senior Activities, is a taxpayer-supported public service. It adds value to our community, and sets Westport apart as a progressive town that understands the importance and environmentally beneficial nature of public transportation.

So if you are a commuter who wants less, not more, traffic congestion, a home owner who wants to maintain high property values, a real-estate agent who uses the shuttle to market the town, a parent who wants safer roads and less pollution, or finally, a shuttle user who wants to keep the shuttles running, contact the Representative Town Meeting at RTMMailingList@westportct.gov and ask them to restore the full transit budget on May 7.

Carolin Sigal