Commission pushes back against proposed public transit cuts

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COLUMBIA - The Public Transit Advisory Commission (PTAC) is pushing back over proposed budget cuts to the city's public transit system.

PTAC members are writing a letter to the city council urging them to reconsider the proposed budget cuts to the transit system.

In late July, City Manager Mike Matthes outlined the budget for fiscal year 2019. Matthes proposed several cuts to the transit system, including cutting the budget for the transit system by $300,000.

Matthes also proposed increasing the cost of ParaTransit rides from $2 to $3, along with reducing the areas the buses serve, eliminating the last bus route after 7 p.m. on weekdays and ending the Saturday and special events service by June 1, 2019.
The ParaTransit service is for residents who are wheelchair bound. Increasing ParaTransit fees by the $1 would generate about $54,000 for the city.
PTAC members are against the Matthes' proposed cuts and argue the small increase in ParaTransit fees can add up quickly for people with disabilities, especially if they are unemployed. 
Some city council members are concerned with the potential cuts, too. In a recent newsletter to constituents, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas wrote, “Even with the deep cuts proposed [city funds are] expected to run out of cash in 2023, unless we are able to start collecting sales tax on Internet purchases or a new revenue source is found.”
The city’s transit consultant, Olsson Associates, recently recommended a plan to increase use of the most popular Black and Gold routes, and to replace some of the neighborhood routes with a flex system.
In a flex system, some residential areas would not have a bus driving in a loop to pick up passengers. Instead, customers could request a Go COMO shuttle to pick them up and take them to a location.
In the letter, commission members want to remind city officials that public transit helps Columbia in its efforts to be a green community. 
KOMU 8 News also talked to some frequent bus riders about the potential cuts. 
Roger Winters said the changes would hurt his daily commute severely.
"I use the buses to get to work, and if I can't do that it would be devastating."
Amanda Paz Herrera, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, says the public transit system is especially important to people who rely on a cheap method of transportation.
"If needed, I would not mind paying higher fees for the buses versus paying way more for Ubers and taxis."
She also says she wants more communication from city officials.
"I think communication is really important. If there are going to be changes, we need to be able to prepare for these changes."
The commission will submit its revised letter to the city council in the September 10 meeting.
City officials have six more weeks to finalize the budget.

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