Angry public transit riders filled the Legislature’s public hearing room today (Wed.) for an oversight hearing called by Senator Frank Aguon Jr. After riders voiced their frustrations, Aguon grilled the GRTA.
“I have problems getting to dialysis. I have problems getting to appointments and I get it, I’m from the South. I’ve been told from the South that I cannot get a schedule — even though I call at 8 o’clock in the morning to make a schedule. I’ve been told they’ll take my name and they’ll call me back. I call at 8 o’clock. How come they can’t get my schedule right then and there?” asked GRTA para transit rider Frank “Kool-Aid” Ungacta.
“A lot of my neighbors plus friends and relatives are losing their jobs because there’s only one bus going down to the South,” said GRTA rider Odie Taitano. “They’re starting to lose their jobs because they can’t get to work. The earliest bus for Merizo is at 9:30 and the only way they are going to get back home is to catch the 5:30 run. Likewise, on the Yona side — okay the bus comes at like 7:30 in the morning the next route is at 3:30. Okay, people can’t get to work let alone their appointments.”
Taitano said it’s difficult for herself as well.
“I work from 7 to 3:30 which is my shift. I get off at 3:30 but yet I have to wait until 5 o’clock to be picked up to go home. And then of course the thing is we’re not supposed to be on the bus for no more than two hours. I don’t get home until 8 o’clock or after 8 sometimes almost 9.”
“The para transit will be able to bring the individual into the base however when they are done with whatever business they have on the base they have to walk out of the gate in order for the paratransit to pick them up,” said Lourdes Mendiola who is a parent of a para transit rider.
“Most of the time, I get picked up late for my dialysis. I did let the dispatcher know that hey if I go dialysis they’re gonna cut my treatment time because I’m late. Sometimes they’re like oh I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, but sorry isn’t good enough,” said Rodney Calimlim.
After the frustrated riders spoke, oversight Chairman Senator Frank Aguon Jr. grilled GRTA officials about their lack of buses and decline in services. Out of 23 vehicles, only 3 are operational. So GRTA is now paying Kloppenburg enterprises to provide the government with 9 more buses. This means the GRTA is only able to field 12 vehicles right now for all of Guam.
“We paired back from 18 to 12 because of budget. We are having difficulty with new vehicles because of fair wear and tear,” said GRTA executive manager Enrique “Rick” Augustin.
GRTA does not have a contract for vehicle maintenance, as it is currently stuck in procurement. Augustin told PNC that he hopes to have those procurement issues resolved soon by getting a blanket purchase order that would allow his department to buy the parts necessary. He is also working on getting the General Services Agency to approve of a sole source procurement they hope to have approved with GSA soon to allow them to hire Fukuda enterprises as their maintenance contractor. Fukuda is the distributor of GRTA’s vehicles and Fukuda has a relationship with the manufacturer. Augustin says it all boils down to a lack of funding.
“This agency has been severely underfunded, and it goes further back. Back in 2009 I believe in February during a public hearing to make sure we become the Guam Regional Transit Authority. And at that time, it was identified by a government official that there was $20 million dollars. $20 million dollars to buy 50 buses included in that $20 million dollars was to build a bus maintenance facility. So the question here, here we are now 9,10,11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 8, years later the question is where is that $20 million dollars?” asked Augustin.
Aguon recessed the hearing today (Weds.) to allow for more time for some documents he requested. Discussions will resume next Wednesday.