Despite working tirelessly in recent years to increase revenues and reduce expenses associated with the bus system, Columbia has been forced to make its largest service cuts to date.
This will create very real hardships for local residents. Particularly those who rely on the bus as their sole means for getting to work, school and doctor appointments, as well as for gaining access to groceries and other needed goods and services. The bus system provides more than 1.5 million rides a year.
Extreme lack of funding for transportation in the state of Missouri is to blame, at least in part, for these cuts. According to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, other transit systems across the country receive approximately 40 percent of funding from the state.
This is 100 percent not the case in Missouri. Last year, the state legislature slashed transit funding yet again and left $171.1 million to be split among 34 transit providers.
This translated into $25,000 for the City of Columbia, or four-tenths of one percent of its annual operating budget. Instead of covering 40 percent of its budget, it didn’t even cover half of the salary and benefits of even ONE of the City of Columbia’s 85 bus drivers.
This must change. Transit funding needs to be a priority. Community members must rally behind this cause and be diligent in reaching out to their local state representatives.
Kimberly Cella is the executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association representing more than 30 transit providers across the State of Missouri.