Local Organization Hopes Bus System Will Roll On

5 years 6 months 2 weeks ago Saturday, May 26 2012 May 26, 2012 Saturday, May 26, 2012 5:58:00 AM CDT May 26, 2012 in News
By: Lauren Sanguinet

COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council has been debating how to avoid cuts to the Columbia Transit's budget. And soon the city manager will propose a new plan to "buy some time" the Public Works Department said.

Although this issue is still up in the air, it holds much significance to Arnold Larson and other members of the self-advocacy organization called People First. Larson not only rides the bus every day it is in route, but he volunteers for the Columbia Transit at the Wabash Station on N. Tenth Street.

To him, these buses that take people from point "a" to point "b" make up a huge part of his life. "We need them, they are the only transportation for some people," Larson said.

People First is an organization out of Boone County Family Resources (BCFR). Its members formed the organization to be run by and for people with developmental disabilities. The organization meets monthly and discusses local issues. During this month's meeting -- first topic -- the bus system.

The Columbia Transit runs different hours during the week, and does not run at all on Sundays. This was one issue brought up by members of People First at their Thursday meeting. Other issues included longer hours of service and more sheltered bus stops. "When it's raining, a lot of stops don't have any cover or enough seats, and sometimes you have to wait awhile," Duke Simmons said, a frequent passenger.

The Paratransit is an additional service, which picks up those who are eligible from their homes. Passengers must call the service 24 hours prior. According to one Paratransit rider, Sherry Brandis, this service is essential for her to get around. Brandis said she has difficulty walking and cannot make it to other public bus stops.

According to Jill Stedem of the Columbia Public Works Department, city manager Mike Matthes plans to propose a different solution to avoid making cuts to the transit's budget. Matthes will propose increasing the subsidy from the transportation sales tax fund by $550,000 to fund Transit operations for the 2013 fiscal year. Stedem said this will buy some time for the department to find additional solutions, so the Transit does not have to lose any routes, days or service or see a fee increase.

Stedem said the city council recently discussed these issues. This summer will be the time for the major decisions. Matthes will make decisions regarding the budget in July and a number of public hearings will occur in August. Finally, in September the city council will adopt the new budget.

Stedem said she does not foresee any changes for those using Paratransit, services for disabled or low-income. Larson, Simmons, and Brandis all agreed that they really like the system, but just hope the city can improve certain things.

"I love the bus system. Really, I don't know what I'd do with out it," Larson said.

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