Even with recent infusions of money into the ailing bus system from local governments, officials with the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority say problems with an ongoing budget shortfall remain.
At CMRTA’s budget committee meeting Wednesday, members made the latest round of recommendations for reductions to services – proposals that the full board had asked staff to come back with in order to comply with a balanced budget mandate.
“It’s our job to live within our means, so that’s what we’re doing,” said CMRTA’s executive director Bob Schneider.
Earlier this year, and going into its fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the bus system faced a $2.5 million budget shortfall.
In February, commitments from both Richland County Council and Columbia totaling $1.4 million brought the deficit down to $1.1 million.
“That bought us 60 days to figure out what we needed to do,” he said. “The county and the city gave what they could so now, with no new sources of revenue coming in, we’re having to live within our means.”
The recommendations, which will be presented at the authority’s full board meeting Wednesday, include:
• The elimination of service on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence Day
• Elimination of service on Sundays
• Reduction of Saturday services, with only seven routes during an 11-hour span of service
• Reduction of evening services Monday through Friday on most routes, with no service after 8 p.m.
• Consolidation of four weekday routes into two routes: Rosewood and Colonial Heights; Colony Apartments and Edgewood
• Elimination of three routes: Village at Sandhill, Forest Drive’s B Segment on Faraway Drive and Crosstown, which has several segments
• Elimination or reduction of DART services for disabled riders to match all fixed-route service changes
The bus system also wants to introduce a one-day unlimited-ride pass costing $3.50. A ride without changing buses costs $1.50. The new pass, Schneider said, is meant to foster increased ridership, expand revenues, improve access to the system for new riders and simplify fare collection.
The full board will meet at noon Wednesday to consider the budget committee’s recommendations. If the recommendations are adopted, changes to the bus service would begin April 30.