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COLUMBIA -The Columbia City Council is meeting at 5:30 pm Monday to discuss the 2012 public transit budget. Third ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said Monday there is currently a $3 million defecit in the funding for Columbia Transit. In order to make up for that, fare increases are necessary, Kespohl said. This decision comes after city officials realized two months ago that if fares did not increase, funding would run out by June 2012.

One of the changes the council is considering is increasing the regular fare for a bus ride from $1.00 to $1.50 and paratransit fare from $2 to $3. However, this rate increase will only reduce the defecit by $1 million, Kehspohl said. Regular bus fare would have to be set at $2.50 in order to eliminate the deficit completely.

Other changes under consideration are eliminating Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening bus service. A handful of bus riders KOMU spoke with Monday expressed concern over being able to get places on those nights and affording to ride the bus in general after fare increases.

Kespohl said he is remaining optimistic the council can find a way to avoid making any service cuts. He also said increasing ridership would help decrease the defecit. The mayor is expected to unveil a plan to set that into motion at the work session Monday, Kespohl said.

Among other possible changes to cut costs, the council is searching for ways to reduce the amount of miles covered on the city's bus routes.

The council will meet again to discuss the transit budget twice in September.