The mayor’s newsletter contains this letter to the City Council that details the mayor’s fiscal plan for the coming year in the wake of the voters voting down the override for the operating budget.
For those who voted against the override what do you make of this plan?
For those who voted for the override what do you make of this plan?
Honorable City Councilors and School Committee Members:
The voters of Newton made their decision on March 14, 2023 both to move forward with rebuilding the Countryside and Franklin Elementary Schools with debt exclusion overrides and, conversely, not to increase at this time the City’s operating budget.
Elections matter. Without the additional funding, we are making challenging decisions.
I believe passionately in the mission of NPS. I will support the learning of our students and the work of our educators within our financial constraints.
I know the leadership at NPS is wholly committed to creating a sustainable budget, not just for this coming Fiscal Year 2024 but for the ensuing years.
Tomorrow morning, Interim Superintendent Kathy Smith is bringing forward to the School Committee her recommended budget.
I have taken three steps to support Superintendent Smith in these efforts. Tomorrow’s NPS proposed budget incorporates these three steps, all of which require the approval of the City Council:
- Provide additional funding to support NPS operations by using one-time free cash towards one-time capital expenditures to lower our debt service costs and repurposing the $600,000 of funds annually to help NPS transition to a sustainable budget.
- Support NPS operations with its $1.4M one year gap in increased out-of-district tuition costs by using one-time free cash towards this one-time need.
- Support the mental health needs of NPS students with City funding.
More specifically, I have respectfully submitted a docket item to the Honorable Council requesting the use of $10 million in FY2022 Free Cash for the Lincoln-Eliot Elementary School construction project that the Council has already approved. This $10 million includes the $7.5 million we originally planned to use for the Horace Mann Elementary School addition/renovation project and $2.5 million we had set aside for snow/ice expenses this winter beyond what is included in the operating budget. This past winter was mild, fortunately, allowing the repurposing of these snow/ice funds.
This use of $10 million from the unusually large FY2022 Free Cash amount will allow the City to reduce the bonding for Lincoln-Eliot from $50 to $40 million. This will in turn save the City approximately $600,000 each year (over 30 years) in debt service costs.
I will repurpose the $600,000 to supplement the 3.5% increase I had originally planned for the Newton Public Schools FY2024 operating budget. This $600,000 will be added to the NPS base budget. Instead of a 3.5% increase, the base budget for NPS will rise by 3.73% in my proposed FY2024 budget for a total increase in the budget of $9.772M. This has in turn reduced the NPS staffing level reductions being announced tomorrow.
I am also respectfully submitting a docket item to the Honorable Council requesting the use of $1.4 million in FY2022 Free Cash to provide a “bridge grant” to NPS for the expected significant increase in student out-of-district costs in FY2024. This is a result of a dramatic, unanticipated state-imposed 14% rate increase for private special education school tuitions. The state’s circuit-breaker special education program operates on a reimbursement model; NPS has a one year funding gap as the state will provide financial relief from these rate increases in FY2025. This bridge grant allows NPS to fund this one-year gap in special education cost increases.
I will also propose in the City’s FY2024 Budget that the City absorb for one year the $50,000 cost currently in the NPS budget for the INTERFACE referral service program through William James College. This program provides mental health and wellness referral services. NPS staff have found it invaluable for students and families. The $104,000 budget for this ongoing program will be 100% funded in the City’s Department of Health & Human Services for FY2024. (NPS represents 60% of the calls to INTERFACE.)
Combined, these three funding decisions using one-time free cash in a financially responsible way assists NPS during this necessary transition to a long-term sustainable budget.
Supporting our Retirees and Bolstering Financial Sustainability:
This morning I met with the independent Newton Contributory Retirement System Board with a proposal to support our current retirees, ensure the funding of our pension system for future retirees, and adjust the pension system payments to a more sustainable level. This is a collaborative effort and I am extremely grateful to the Board members for considering the proposal.
More specifically, I have asked the Board to consider:
- Increasing the base amount that retiree COLAs are applied to by $1,000 for each of the next three years, which requires City Council approval. In other words, the COLA would apply to the first $13,000 in FY24, $14,000 in FY25 and $15,000 in FY26 (an additional $30 dollars a year per retiree). Currently, the City of Newton is one of only six retirement systems out of 104 in the Commonwealth that limits the COLA to the first $12,000. This action addresses the inflationary pressures that our retirees are facing daily.
- Extending the funding schedule to August 2031 (in the beginning of FY32) at which time the system will be 100% funded. Our current plan would have allowed us to fully fund our pension system by FY2030, but the losses in the stock market last year has pushed that into FY2031. This action will create a more sustainable funding schedule for the City in which to fully address this significant long-term liability and ensure funding of pensions for our retirees. In turn, fully funding our pension system will allow us to fund the $665 million+ unfunded retiree health insurance (a.k.a., OPEB) liability.
Simultaneously, the change in date in the full funding schedule frees up the bonding capacity to enable moving forward with the Horace Mann (HM) Elementary School addition and renovation. These facility upgrades at HM are critically important to the community’s students, parents and staff. The school building is lacking a significant amount of space, creating educational hurdles for the staff and students every day. The addition/renovation is a $23 million project with the cost of the bonding over thirty years being $1.3 million annually for the associated debt service.
* * * * *
I am giving my full attention toward working with the City Council, School Committee, NPS and City Departments, and our community to deliver a balanced municipal budget that reflects our community values and balances our books.
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller
Very happy Horace Mann gets funded. I think we still have a very large gap in the public school budget.
The school budget comes out tomorrow. More to follow.
From the proposed school budget that will be presented tonight, NPS is proposing to ADD 2 administrative positions. These are the most expensive employees in the district. I knew that the the administration would fight to not let any administrators go, but I did not think they would have the gall to hire more administrators when students are exiting and teachers are being let go. Who is running the show?
Jeffrey – Thanks for letting us know – do they list the 2 positions? And yes you are correct – WHO is running the show. Lets cut teachers and programs but add in more high paying Administrators. Alot of parents are moving their kids out the NPS. The Mayor wants to punish the Students and Teachers but make sure that her high paying admin friends have a job! I am sure that Alot of cuts could also be made at Newton City Hall too.
Haven’t they already announced in the powerpoint that two assistant principal decisions are being cut?
Can you specify what positions they are adding? Or did they restore the two assistant principal position?
I appreciate the frustration if we are adding administrative positions if we cutting elsewhere. But I’d appreciate the details, including what positions are being added, as this is the first I’ve heard of it.
Didi, I do not know what the two positions are. Bruce C. is implying where one position is coming from. We will see if anyone on the SC asks anything about this at the meeting. Also, I mis-wrote. The meeting is tomorrow night.
Just to put things in perspective, between 2015 and now, the number of admistrators has increased 9.4% and the number of students has dropped by 6.3%. The trend continues.
Jeffrey, I’ve done a line by line review of the budget. How are you defining “adding 2 administrative positions”? I see one addition, with a net negative in the department by reducing other headcount and moving people part-time. What, to you, is an “administrative position”? Can you show me what page in the budget you are looking at?
Just trying to understand where your data is coming from. I’m look at the fiscal 24 superintendent budget (full book) on the school committee website that came out in late March. If you are looking at something different, please let me know.
Fig. Go to, https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-faTTSCr-nKvbbmcIZScszFEriGg59Dx
Download, FY24 Superintendent Proposed Budget Book
Go to page 52 of the PDF, labeled page 37.
Look at the row, “Administration and Coordinators.” Compare the FTE’s for FY23 to FY24. Voila! The FTE’s go from 81.6 to 83.6. 83.6-81.6 = 2.
Jeffrey, thanks for the link. You are correct that they are adding 2 people in the administration and coordinator category. But I think you left out a few facts:
1) Did you miss the line entry above the one you mentioned, where it says that the “Principals, Asst. Principals, Dept Heads, Housemaster” category was being reduced by 1.5 FTE?
2) Generally I think when people focus on school administration, they view the principals and the like in that category. And for the record they are the most expensive employees in the district, not the administration and coordinators. Overall, in all administration categories, there has been a cut. You could argue it should have been deeper, but you cherry picked one fact.
3) The page you referenced lists out 56.4 FTE being reduced. 9 elementary teachers. 19.2 middle school. 2.2 high school. 1 special services. 1 guidance. 3.4 secretaries and custodians. 1.5 principals. The ONLY category that went up was the 2 additions in Administration and Coordinators. And yet that was the line you chose to focus on, even though there were other non-teacher lines that clearly showed cuts (including 3.4 FTE reduction in secretaries for instance)
4) I’m guessing there is a good reason connected to those two hires, which restore the FTE in that category to roughly what it was in 2021 and 2022. As Bruce says below, one of the FTEs relates to restoring the curriculum coordinator to full time.
5) So what is a curriculum coordinator? I know of a few. There is a Literacy Coordinator for the elementary schools. There is one I believe to coordinate for the ESL students. Another for the Special Ed program I believe (maybe more than one). As I believe Newton is making a push to bring more of its students placed outside the system back to Newton, it is likely one was needed for that. That is supposed to save us money in the long run (although I don’t support it). I’m just guessing though. But perhaps one of the school committee members can give more details so that your question gets answered.
6) As a FYI, the Coordinators are not paid anything close to the principals and other high level administration people. From my math, the majority of the raise in that category comes from the step raises due to all of the employees. You can roughly figure out the math by looking at the other categories and looking at the step-raise.
7) The problem with cherry picking the data is that it is designed to provoke outrage. Look at Didi’s response below. A little context would have been useful. I’ve attempted to provide it.
There is certainly a conversation to be had about administration positions vs school teachers. Newton had 74.6 administration and coordinators in 2015. In 2023 it will have 83.6. And it would be worth a conversation about what those people do, and why we needed the increase over the past 10 years. But looking at our neighboring communities, I didn’t see Newton as a outlier (at least to Natick and Needham, which have easy access to budget materials.)
The more interesting question for me in comparing 2015 to 2023 is the 313 FTE Student Services Teachers in 2023 vs. 243 FTE in 2015. The budget in that category has gone up 13 million. The FTE count went up 30%! Most other teaching categories stayed consistent. Even taking into account raises, that is a big part of the budget crunch.
Year over year, another huge part is the increase is health costs, and the huge increase in Tuition/Special Education transport. That went up 74% and 16% respectively. Utilities up 25%.
You’ve posted quite a few times with your quote about the administration costs. But even if you reverted to the headcount in 2015, you’d have far less in savings than the cost increases in Special ed, out of district tuition, busing, utilities, and health insurance, never mind the COLA raises. Even if you completely eliminated the entire administration budget you wouldn’t make up the gap.
Again, just trying to provide some context.
The two curriculum coordinators are being restored to full time positions. Last year, they were .5 FTE with the other half being teaching responsibilities.
Didi,the Mayor is not making NPS personnel decisions, to “punish teachers and students” or otherwise.
The Mayor provides the schools a funding number. The superintendent determines the budget.
I just read the mayor’s email. Looks like we are funding NewMo to the tune of at least $275,000. At the same time, we are laying off a net 40 NPS staff.
In what universe does it make sense for Newton to subsidize its own private taxi service? How many teacher layoffs can we prevent by axing this program?
NewMo supports the mayor’s narrative that Newton doesn’t need cars or their parking spaces. Right now, her Planning Department is proposing rezoning for 10K multi-family housing units with no required parking. If this passes, NewMo can go away, but not until then. Note that the public hearing for this rezoning may come as early as this June.
The mayor’s loyalties are against the middleclass, whose financial stability depends on public education, home ownership as a primary asset, and the ability to negotiate better jobs for themselves by being able to get to multiple locations. The mayor’s loyalties are with the upper class, who send their children to private schools, own an increasing share of the land, and depend on a docile work force who are stuck in their jobs.
NewMo is providing senior transport. Through grants, Newton was able to expand the service to anyone. It is used to a large extent by people with few other transportation options. It is filling gaps in our school transportation system as well as our services for people in need, while also providing a convenience for people who find themselves without other transportation.
For a city where quite a few neighborhoods aren’t well served by other transit, NewMo is awesome.
Tim, I understand the sentiment. Everything with the budget these days is about choices. Funding NewMo is a choice, and it is hard to balance out teachers with a program like NewMo. I will say this to defend NewMo, as Michael says it has largely been covered by grants and developer payments to date. As someone who has used it occasionally for my kids, it is safe, affordable, and useful. But mostly I’m defending it because my elderly neighbors use it a lot. And they can’t drive anymore. And likely can’t afford an Uber daily. It gives mobility to folks like that. Just saying that it has real value. Perhaps we could keep it by raising the price for people who use it for kid transport (say $5 a ride at least) or for non-senior transport. I want to keep subsidizing senior transport especially.
I see no reason to make this about the Mayor. There will be a Mayor election soon enough, and the vitriol about the Mayor being “insert insult here” doesn’t mean much for budgeting. Seems like there is a new conspiracy theory regarding the Mayor each week. I’m amazed she has time for anything else.
As a program though, NewMo has really worked for a lot of folks. Just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.
NewMo is more evidence of Fuller pandering to Sr citizens at the expense of children, especially those in NPS.
NewMo, the Sr Center, and the OPEB/Pension funding are three examples of monies she was happy to pay for services for the older residents…but in a zero sum game like a budget it comes at the expense of the kids.
Shame on her. if she wanted to fund these things, great, then borrow more money and/or stop claiming to be a mayor for NPS. One of these is wrong, and i think actions speak louder than words. she couldnt care less about NPS.
I am pro-New Mo but where is the funding and energy being put toward improving our school bus system? We live a little over a mile and a half from the school and the closest bus stop is . 75 miles away in the wrong direction. And this is a service that I’d need to pay $350 a year per child to use.
Jerry, can we get a thread about the Boston Globe article on golf courses in Newton not paying 1.5 million in taxes each year due to their exemptions? Globe article today seems timely.
More thoughts on NewMo – if this is about providing mobility to seniors that don’t have other options, then (a) limit the program to seniors and (b) means-test the program. If you are a senior who can afford private transport, you should pay out of pocket.
I am not aware of many (or any) other towns that offer a NewMo-style service. I get that it’s convenient, wonderful to have, etc., but we are resource-constrained and the choice is, quite literally, firing 3-4 teachers/teachers’ aides vs. maintaining this “nice-to-have” service.
I’m a Senior and don’t think the municipal government should be spending money on my transportation, just because I am older. I can still drive, but if I couldn’t drive, I would use Uber or move to a senior housing facility with transportation. Seniors get their significant entitlements from the Federal Government, in the form of Social Security and Medicare. The primary duty of the municipal government is supplying a good public education system, not giving Seniors yet more entitlements.
More importantly, Newton’s young people sacrificed two important years of their lives to COVID, largely in order to protect Seniors. Seniors owe young people now, and should willingly forego the Senior Center and NewMo for the sake of the schools.
The mayor cannot on side of her mouth spout her support of NPS, the then turn around and choose NewMo over schools. Time for change and integrity at 1000 Commonwealth Ave.
I am a strong supporter of NewMo as a mechanism to fill the gaps in our transportation system, provide transportation resilience for everyone in our community, and multiply the value of our city’s social services by allowing more people access to them.
NewMo has demonstrated its value and success. It now needs to move to a more sustainable model. The mayor’s budget presentation makes clear the city is thinking the same.
Debra, I see no reason why we need to cast issues like this as one group versus another. We are all part of the community. As individuals we have different needs. Seniors or anyone else are not monolithic. Specifically here, NewMo serves older residents, younger ones who need transportation after school, and lower income residents more than any other groups.
We just went through an override debate where the fiscal and economic fragility of residents was a prominent concern. I think it needs to remain a concern that the city may have the opportunity to address, in ways only local government can. Blanket statements that “seniors have sufficient entitlements” can easily gloss over real needs.
And Matt, I don’t see why this and so many other issues have to be cast in personal terms about the mayor. You have a policy difference with what the administration. Great. But why make it about the mayor personally?
There are other people like me that strongly support NewMo. It’s a policy difference. Let’s debate it as such.
I think focusing on issues and not people when possible is simple step we can take to improve discourse and civility in our civic discussions and our community.
Mike what would be so wrong with a “means test” for NewMo?
JJ, administering a true means test might significantly increase the cost of the program. However, there is already something like it. There’s a subsidized per-ride rate, and the mayor mentions likely increases in the price per ride coming up to make the program more sustainable.
I would not want the program limited to a certain income of people, however. Take for example students who need transportation for after school programs when a bus, parent or carpool isn’t available. NewMo provides an option for families in this circumstance where traditional ride share doesn’t. NewMo reduces the potential need for a student to drive to high school, with parking and congestion that that involves. For students who normally walk or bike to school, NewMo gives them an option if the weather is severe or for any other exceptional reason.
Maybe students and other riders should pay more than now, but the service is uniquely valuable.
Mike – I literally do not know a single person that has taken a NewMo. Not a single one. Not friend, neighbor, parent, or teen. Not a single sole. Seeing a NewMo vehicle on the streets is like a coyote sighting or a very good steak – rare.
That’s not to say it’s not used at all, but when here aRe other spending priorities (teachers) and coming out of plea for an Override, NewMo is little more than a vanity project for the Mayor. Cost outweigh the benefit.
My beef with the Mayor goes back to Northland and development – saying one thing, but actions tell another. NewMo is yet another example.
Matt, according to this article:
NewMo has provided more than 100,000 rides to 12,000 registered users over the last three years (as of January 2023). And that includes it’s ramp up from nothing.
It is hardly unused.
Oh, it’s “its”, not “it’s”.
One more statistic. According to the same article, NewMo serves more than 300 people each weekday.
According to this Mass. Central Transportation Planning Staff document, in 2012 about 572 people boarded all three Newton Commuter Rail stops each weekday.
Matt I had to laugh this morning. I was out for my morning walk and just as I passed the bottom of your street a NewMo car drove past me. I see them all the time.
Mike Halle: Well said on the pitting of seniors vs schools (kids) and the unnecessary vitriol directed at the major. And well documented argument in favor of NewMo.
I support NewMo. I was skeptical, because there was a similar free bus service that failed years ago. But NewMo provides a real service to seniors in Newton and it’s a relatively inexpensive program. So count me in on NewMo. But I do have one question and I’m wondering if anyone knows the answer… Why do NewMo cars have out-of-state plates??
High schoolers also use NewMo extensively. A great asset.
sorry but why cant people just use UBER? its too expensive?
isnt newmo just a subsidized taxi? what if we made it need based then? if you make 100K+ you dont get the subsidy, take an uber you cheap bastid. then you can call it a social program levelling the playing field.
If high schoolers use newmo often, that only matters if it is to get to and from school and school related things like sports. if we are funding a program so high school kids can go hang out with their friends and not have to ask their parents for a ride…that is nonsense. If they are using it to get to school i would say fix the bus problem instead of funding this thing.
we cant subsidize rich people getting free transportation and then fire teachers and threaten 29 kids in a class in 1st grade. budgets have limits unless the mayor wants to borrow. which she doesnt because she wears that AAA badge like hulk hogan wore his championship wrestling belt. a fake prize for a fake title that means nothing to anyone.
the mayor and her priorities are what is causing this strife. if she ACTUALLY cared about children and NPS (she doesnt, her kids all went private, she threatens cuts annually) then the proof would be out there and no one would second guess her other decisions like newmo, like the senior center, etc. but alas.
I’m fine with NewMo for seniors . The city’s own data shows that the most trips are originating or ending at the high schools. Why should tax payors subsidize a car service for teenagers. Let the take Uber of Lift. Or hears a novel idea, have them bike
Lyft and Uber have age limits of 18 years old for unaccompanied passengers.
We subsidize bus service for students, and we have cut back on student transportation after school because of costs. We subsidize an enormous amount of transportation infrastructure in the city. NewMo means less congestion, more parking, and great convenience for everyone in Newton. Let’s find a way to make it sustainable.
What absurd logic. Why should taxpayers subsidize a ride service for seniors? Let them take an Uber or Lyft.
I don’t actually believe that, but why should seniors be the only ones who are the focus? Ubers are prohibitively expensive. And people are always complaining about businesses being understaffed – how could teens get to jobs without transportation? They’d probably have to work for a full hour just to pay for an Uber in one direction. And as for your novel idea about biking – some kids are disabled, some are justifiably not comfortable riding a bike around Newton (I’m not!), some live in multifamily housing with no space for a bicycle.
I’m sick and tired of the old people of Newton wanting to take things away from our children. They already voted against the override. That wasn’t enough?
It’s absolutely shameful and ab embarrassment to this city.
My main issue with NewMo is it does not help any of the low-income workers, home health care attendants, restaurant workers, etc. who travel into Newton.
IMHO a good cross-town bus services, running every 10 minutes and into the night (52 and 59) would be more beneficial. 59 passes North and 52 is a short walk from South.
NewMo can help anyone in Newton get to and from a public transit stop. That can be a big benefit.
Unfortunately, because NewMo is oversubscribed at particular times of the day, it requires budgeting extra time for getting to work. Time is one of the things that lower income people with severe work and family obligations just don’t have.
Newton’s free bus service failed 20 years ago because it was an hourly, one direction route.
The above conversation has been enlightening – I didn’t realize the high school use, for instance. But for me, the only use case that the city should be subsidizing is low income seniors with limited mobility options. If high school students want to use it, fine, but it should be at market rates (e.g., probably $10-15 per ride, or what an Uber/Lyft etc. would cost). Otherwise, we are literally firing teachers to create a subsidized mode of transport for Newton residents. No one has made the case that firing these teachers is worth it.
Incidentally, there are plenty of other services in the city that I wish were subsidized. For instance, I would love to have “NewGrass”, where I could with the click of a button on my phone, have someone show up and mow my lawn for $2. Maybe even “NewSnow” for the winter or “NewLeaf” for the fall. All for $2! I say this in jest, of course, but you get my point.
PS: as a high school and college student, I walked and biked home in plenty of adverse weather conditions. Character building experience, highly recommend.
I wiuld sign up for “NewGrass” and “NewPlow” too!
Great ideas. You should run for mayor, you are clearly more apt than our “Defund NPS” mayor.
Frank D: I’m genuinely curious why, after she pushed hard for an unpopular (with many voters) override to keep NPS fully funded and then found loose change to prevent much of the budget shortfall, you label the mayor as “Defund NPS”.
Yes Matt, like you I’m mystified how after the mayor spent substantial political capital trying to pass an unsuccessful override to fund the schools, she is now being pilloried as the “defund the NPS mayor”. I suspect that many of the same people who are making these criticisms voted against the override for NPS.
Jerry, I actually give the mayor a lot of credit for pushing so hard for a very important override. Sometimes politicians decide to do things because they are the right thing to do, not because they are politically expedient.
The result of the override vote has consequences.
Just like voting for it would have consequences too, like speeding up the flight of lower income and senior homeowners and seeing those houses bought by strip miner developers who would raze and replace those modest dwellings with McMansions and then to set the table for the next planned override. Of course all of this would be done in the name of supply and demand housing need, and that by building more McMansions somehow miraculously there would be a decline or stabilization of housing prices
to be fair on Newmo funding: The 50+ homeless families living in the old Indigo Hotel will rely on Newmo extensively to get around Newton. So, everyone should expect longer wait times so the developer can get paid $.
Yeah, those families definitely won’t be using the [checks notes] Green Line literally just down the street.
No on Override (before): vote no more funding for schools because the mayor hates NPS.
No on override (after): the Mayor has to cut funds because she hates NPS.
How do these make sense?
Well, there goes the “high school students can’t use ride sharing so they need Newmo” rationale:
I think you are a little confused Tim. No one was saying high school students can’t use ride sharing. We were saying they can’t use blue bikes if they are below 16, which is…true.
I will also say that Uber/Lyft drivers vary widely in quality, have no connection in most cases to the community, have little to no quality control beyond initial screening of the driver, and no local follow-up if there is an issue. NewMo has all of that. As well as a price point far more affordable and no surge pricing.
It is fine if you don’t want to support NewMo, but dismissing the rationale for it by dismissing straw man arguments that the supporters aren’t making isn’t very convincing.
Fig, It’s only a “straw man argument because Mike Halle raised this point “Lyft and Uber have age limits of 18 years old for unaccompanied passengers.”
Yes, what JJ said. I’m not at all confused. The rationale for teenagers using NewMo was that Uber or Lyft did not allow for customers under age 18. Now that doesn’t apply.
And of course NewMo is cheaper and doesn’t have surge pricing…it’s only cheaper because it’s subsidized by taxpayers at the expense of other things..like teachers.
NewMo is currently cheaper because it isn’t run on profit AND it is subsidized by grant funding from state agencies AND it is being run at low rates to build adoption.
Uber is introducing Uber Teen in select cities to allow riders between 13 and 18 to ride. Boston and Newton are not on the list at this point. Lyft has not announced a similar program.
Even if and after the Uber Teen program is introduced (and assuming it succeeds), there are compelling reasons to keep NewMo open for students. Uber tracks users and uses the information for commercial purposes. The NewMo fleet is driven by a fixed set of accountable drivers. And the cost of commercial rideshare will be higher, even when NewMo is sustainably priced.
Living in a great city is about providing great services to residents, and I don’t see why NewMo shouldn’t be one of those services. That’s true for teens, that’s for older residents, and that’s for other people for whom other transportation options don’t always work. And that includes teachers and other people who work in Newton.
Hi Mike H. – You state that NewMo is “being run at low rates to build adoption.” This is something that private industry does to gain market share, but something government shouldn’t do.
If NewMo’s price are unable to cover costs, especially when the grants expire, then NewMo will have to raise its prices. Many people who have grown to depend on NewMo, at low prices, might not be able to afford it then, and this will be disruptive
More importantly, NewMo is currently being run as a pilot program to test if the government can sustainably supply transportation to decrease dependence on private car ownership. This is being done at a time when the Mayor’s Planning Department is trying to get zoning passed that ELIMINATES Parking requirements in 10K Plus new housing units. If NewMo’s prices are artificially low, then it is an invalid pilot program and an invalid argument for the feasibility of eliminating parking requirements.
Debra, NewMo is like 10 vehicles. It is a small piece of the city’s goals to reduce vehicle trips and congestion. Parking requirements a piece as well. They are related, but not designed to offset each other.
Yes, to some degree, “NewMo is currently being run as a pilot program to test if the government can sustainably supply transportation to decrease dependence on private car ownership.” Newton and regional and state organizations are definitely interested in that goal, and providing close to a door to door service that complements existing transit is a very interesting experiment (and it’s being tried in other places as well).
But programs for the public, be they commercial or government-provided, have trial phases, need to attract customers, and have setup costs.
Looking at it differently, the city found a way to start up NewMo through grants and building on senior transport and serve more than 100K trips at a cheap rate. Casting that as a problem because it’s somehow not a fair experiment in trip reduction overlooks the benefits NewMo has provided to many residents while building ridership.
Newton spent money on the Newton Nexus bus service, but it failed. NewMo shows a service can succeed. The next step is to see if NewMo can be viable without the grant funding that allowed it to become established. It remains an experiment, but a very useful one that continues to help people every day it is offered.
You say, “Many people who have grown to depend on NewMo, at low prices, might not be able to afford it then, and this will be disruptive”, while arguing that the service either shouldn’t be provided at all or shouldn’t be subsidized by taxpayers. If NewMo can’t be viable while self-sustaining, then we’ll learn that. But NewMo already offers reduced fares for low income residents, so those with greatest sensitivity to price increases will be most sheltered from them. Those that can pay more will be asked to so that the service can continue and adapt to meet the needs of the city’s residents.
Wouldn’t it be cheaper to subsidize Uber? Rather than own the fleet and pay the drivers, couldnt we just subsidize uber/lyft/taxi for whatever segments of the population are deemed to be eligible?
Something like, get a $5 credit for all rides within city limits.
Even at 100K rides per year, thats 500K cost, but limiting eligibility would likely decrease this number. Could make sense, could also alleviate the concerns from some as the eligible population could be limited.
Frank, Uber and Lyft can bid in the new NewMo contract. Last time, when the service started, they declined to do so.
Senior transport is also part of the contract, and some of the NewMo vehicles provide wheelchair accessibility.
Newton doesn’t own the NewMo vehicles. That’s taken care of through the vendor, and at this time those vehicles are owned or leased by the drivers.
The current cost to Newton is about $300K per year, supplemented by grant funding and developer mitigation funds (I don’t know if the developer mitigation adds to or subtracts from the $300K).
Got it. Thanks.
Mike, I think the question is what is the cost per ride on NewMo when we add what users are paying and what the city is paying. You seem to be saying that it is less than Uber/Lyft. Do you know so? I have no idea what the answer is.
The city is rebidding the NewMo contract and has already announced changes in the rate structure. We should hear more as that process unfolds.
I also believe that NewMo will be an increasing part of developers’ transportation demand management (TDM) plans, so that may pick up more of the cost of the program.