Council’s budget approval raises public transit fees

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 10:09 p.m. CDT; updated 11:26 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — After hearing residents' concerns about affordability and bus reliability, the City Council unanimously approved Columbia's budget for the 2009 fiscal year at its Monday night meeting. The budget included an increase in transportation fees, which would double the cost of using Columbia public transit; that change will go into effect Oct. 1.

Columbia Public Works representatives said diesel fuel costs and inflation are some of the factors that brought on the jump in fares, which is the first public transportation fee increase in 22 years.

Residents and bus patrons who attended the meeting had mixed feelings about the fare increase. Some said it would hurt low-income and disability riders.

"When people see the increase, it truly is an issue," Columbia resident Eugene Elkin said. "You are doubling what is already a problem for the low income. We truly have troubles in the state of Missouri."

Adult fares will increase from 50 cents to $1; half-fares for children, students, Medicaid recipients and senior citizens will go from 25 cents to 50 cents per ride. Para-transit rides will double in cost to $2.

Most FastPass prices doubled as well, but an amendment to the 2009 budget allocated a $12,500 subsidy for 30-day passes. With funds from the city, Columbia Transit will charge $35 for a full-fare 30-day pass, instead of the proposed $40. The half-fare pass will cost $15 instead of the doubled price of $20.

"We wound up, after a long period of time, coming to some very difficult choices," said Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala. "I was glad to see that if we could recover our costs, we could at least put some money back into the system so that the passes were discounted at some degree."

Skala also discussed adding $2,500 from left over funds in order to further lower the costs of 30-day passes for individuals that rely on the bus for transportation to work. The council decided to discuss the amendment at a later time.

Many residents said they would be more willing to pay the increased fare if the bus system was more convenient and reliable. Residents voiced concerns about bus safety, customer service, bus hours and arrival and departure times.

"I regret that most people I spoke with on the transit were unable to attend (the meeting) due to the bus scheduling," Kimberly Goetsch-Melton said. "My question is how many council members actually utilize the transit system? If you don't, I'd like to know why."

It is estimated that ridership will decrease by 10 percent because of the increased fares but will recover within the next two years. The fare increase is expected to generate revenues of about $170,000, and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said more advertisements on the bus could help bring in funds.

"My hope is, along with the pass reduction, that we can put more money into the system and improve the delivery so that all council people can say ‘We use the bus, too,'" Hoppe said. "We have a challenge ahead of us that we need to meet."


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Charles Dudley Jr September 16, 2008 | 4:45 a.m.

Ya these increased bus fares although amended will effect the disabled community as a whole because their small budgets are already tight as it is.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 16, 2008 | 6:45 a.m.

During my college years, I traveled across the country on my summers off. In one town, my car broke down and I had to stay in the town for a couple of days, waiting for the repair. When I asked about bus service, I was told that there was none. All I had to do was wait in front of designated shops/restaurants with my thumb out and helpful/willing drivers would pick-up those who needed a ride. Many of the town's well-to dos actually enjoyed giving a lift to those without a car. I've never come across such a mentality/culture in any town since. (Maybe this is why I've given "free" rides to my neighbors more often than not.)

(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 16, 2008 | 7:31 a.m.

22 years without a fare increase. Quit your bitchin'.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 16, 2008 | 3:40 p.m.

Ya 22 years with no real increases in service hours such as 7 days a week,no really new expanded bus routes and a entire slew of other things to boot. Ya right man no reason to complain everything is just fine move along now just move along.

The one word that describes this city to the letter is "Complacency".

(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 16, 2008 | 9:41 p.m.

Look at how much the cost of buses, fuel, and salaries have increased over the last two decades. Y'all got a free ride. Time to pay up, just like those of us who pay gas taxes have been subsidizing Columbia's empty buses for eons.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 17, 2008 | 5:23 a.m.

Those so called empty buses are a "needed necessity" as the Mayor even said himself at the City Council meeting Monday night. Sure it costs Columbia citizens money in subsidizing this service but we as citizens also subsidize City Parks we might not ever go to or be apart of so why should my tax money go to subsidize those if we as common citizens never go to them? Because it says in the City Charter we must build 2 City Parks per year. Why do we need more City Parks that the City can barely maintain now?
The bus service needs to be reworked for all citizens of Columbia and it is just the added fares do put more strain on those with fixed low end to poverty level incomes and as such that difference often times makes it more difficult to decide where to go,what groceries to buy,what health care to pay for,what medical supplies might be needed to be purchased and more. This picture is so much bigger than the bread box it is contained in.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 17, 2008 | 9:01 a.m.

Ever considered getting a bicycle?


(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 17, 2008 | 11:00 a.m.

I can find no such language in the city charter that requires the building of two parks per year:


Sections 108 through 111, inclusive. (Repealed 11-11-74)

Section 112. Revenues.

For the acquisition, maintenance and development of adequate recreational facilities, and for the proper promotion of a recreational program, the city manager shall include in the manager's budget an amount estimated by the manager to be sufficient for said purposes.

(Ord. No. 15113, § 1, 1-16-97)

Section 113. Permanent Park Fund.

There shall be a permanent park fund which shall consist of: gifts, bequests and devises specified for this purpose; rents, issues and profits derived from any property which may have been purchased or held in trust by or for the City of Columbia for recreational purposes; and the proceeds of the sale of any such property, real, personal or mixed, so purchased or held in trust. Moneys in this permanent park fund shall be appropriated, expended or encumbered only for parks and other recreational property or facilities.


(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 17, 2008 | 11:48 a.m.

"I can find no such language in the city charter that requires the building of two parks per year."

Hah hah Chuck. John schools you once again. Time to bow down.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 17, 2008 | 1:33 p.m.

Then you better go tell that to Bill Watkins who said that it is required by City Charter to build two new city parks per year at one of the last City Council Meetings. So was Bill Watkins lying or are your facts wrong. Go get a copy of the meeting on video and you will see.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 17, 2008 | 5:14 p.m.

City charter's right here, look it up if you like:

Are you sure Bill Watkins said city charter and not the code of ordinances?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 17, 2008 | 7:57 p.m.

Go review the video of the City Council Meetings over this last month if you do not believe me.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 18, 2008 | 9:35 a.m.

Most of us don't have time to review 8-10 hours of video. You're very lucky that you do. I didn't find anything mentioned in the minutes, going back six weeks.

I don't believe you. Show me. I can't imagine there would be such an ordinance, particularly since the city hasn't opened that many new parks for several years now.


(Report Comment)

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