COLUMBIA — There were so many people at Monday's City Council meeting, the law was broken.
To correct a violation of the fire code, City Manager Mike Matthes asked some members of the crowd to go to another room and watch a live video feed of the meeting there.
The council approved many transit fare increases Monday. Effective Oct. 1, bus riders will have to pay the following fares:
Half fare: 75 cents
Regular fare: $1.50
25-ride pass: $30
30-day pass: $55
Student semester pass: $100
The council passed the budget for the 2012 fiscal year. What attracted much of the crowd were the proposed changes to the city's public transit system. Of those who spoke during the public hearing, 25 of 26 addressed the transit budget, which the council unanimously approved.
The bus system has been the most hotly debated aspect of the $430-million city budget that Matthes released in late July. His plans included across-the-board fare increases and some cuts to service. Matthes proposed the changes in an effort to keep the transit's reserve fund from going into the red. The bus system has been losing $100,000 a month, which means the fund, without any changes, would've run out of money by July.
The council approved the budget Monday night after the last in a series of public hearings. But Matthes' proposal didn't go unchanged. Council members kept nearly all the proposed fare increases but scaled back the cuts in service.
One fare that went unchanged, though, was the fare for paratransit services. The council unanimously voted to keep the fare at $2 a ride and to fund the difference using the council's discretionary fund.
Eligibility for half-fares was changed to exclude only students 18 years or older. Matthes had originally proposed eliminating half fares for everyone except those groups which have to receive the discount, according to federal law.
Also, in Matthes’ first proposal, Thursday through Saturday evening service was to be cut. After much public comment on the subject in recent weeks, a budget amendment was proposed and accepted to eliminate only the last hour of service on Thursdays and Fridays, ending it at 9:30 p.m., and not cutting service on Saturdays.
The MU football shuttle, which had also been eliminated from the original budget, will continue with nearly $8,000 in funding from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mayor Bob McDavid said he knew the challenges facing the council were not easy, but thinks the right decisions were made to keep the transit fund afloat.
"I think the city manager has a handle on it and I congratulate the council members for figuring out a way to minimize route cuts and to minimize rate increases," he said.
More than two dozen members of the public spoke about buses and the transit budget Monday night. Here's a look at what some had to say:
Ian Thomas, director of the PedNet Coalition, applauded the council for the changes made this year as well as for the foresight to look ahead.
"Thank you all very much for the hard work that you've done over the last one to two months," Thomas said, speaking to the council.
Cheryl Price, member of the city's Disabilities Commission, also liked the changes made and applauded the council for their hard work and for keeping the paratransit fares where they currently are.
Matthew Colgin, community manager of The Reserve at Columbia, spoke about bus contracts denied by the city. He asked the council to reconsider the contracts based on the fact that Columbia Transit said the routes would be fully funded by the contracts. However, Matthes pointed out that the contracts would not fully fund those routes.
The changes to the bus system will take place when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.