COLUMBIA — If proposed cuts to the transit budget become final, Mike McCloud, chairman of the Public Transportation Advisory Commission, won’t be able to attend meetings for his own commission.
McCloud was one of 22 people to speak at the public hearings Tuesday night on nine issues including the bus system, although the only issue addressed was the buses.
In other news related to transit issues, City Council voted unanimously:
- To establish a transit system task force to evaluate the Columbia bus system and compare it to transit models in other college towns. The task force will consist of three MU students, one Columbia College student, one Stephens College student, one member of the city administration, one member appointed by MU administration, one member of the Public Transportation Advisory Commission, one member of the PedNet Coalition and the mayor.
- To reject a one-year contract providing extended bus services to The Reserve and Campus Lodge apartments from 6 to 10 p.m., at a price of $6,854.00 per academic year.
- To reject a three-year contract providing bus service to The Pointe at Rock Quarry Park apartments, at a price of $7,000.00 per academic year.
— Alexandria Baca
People wishing to attend the commission’s meetings, which occur once a month at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday, would be able to use the bus to get there but would be unable to take it home.
Main items addressed by the public included City Manager Mike Matthes’ proposed transit budget and Mayor Bob McDavid’s plan for the bus system moving forward.
Matthes’ plan involves across-the-board rate increases of at least 50 percent, a reduction in half-fare eligibility to the federal minimum and cuts to some routes and service hours.
McDavid’s plan would completely revamp the bus system and create a more student-centric system.
The general sentiment among public speakers was in support of McDavid’s plan and a plea not to cut services and raise fares.
The next council meeting, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., will feature continued discussion on the issue, as well as a vote to approve the budget.
Between now and then, council members will examine ideas discussed at a pre-council meeting, which will be available to the public shortly, according to Matthes.
The current bus system loses $100,000 a month, Matthes said, and he knows what will happen if no changes are made.
“Our checks begin to bounce in July without any changes,” Matthes said.
Many speaking to the City Council relayed their personal stories to emphasize how the cuts would affect them.
Cheryl Price, a member of the city’s disabilities commission, appreciated the services already offered in the city but wanted the council to know what would happen if it made the cuts.
Price, who sustained a severe brain injury about 30 years ago, said that she had been in and out of nursing homes for a long time when she realized what was toughest for her.
“The thing that hit me the hardest through all of that and through all of the rehab and medical procedures was taking away my car,” Price said. “I had no connection with the outside world.”
If Price doesn’t have evening service on Thursdays, she won’t be able to get home from a brain injury support group, where she is a volunteer facilitator.
“That not only affects me, but it affects up to 20 other people in our support group,” Price said.
First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt spoke to those concerns.
“We are asking for a sacrifice because we have a really great vision for the future,” Schmidt said.
Helen Anthony, Fifth Ward councilwoman, liked all the work that has been done by city staff in putting the transit budget together and coming up with creative solutions for the future.
“I think it’s impressive we’ve got some momentum going, and I think we’re going to be able to figure this out,” Anthony said. “I’m very optimistic.”