Public Transit Funding in Danger; Ridership on the Rise

By: Rick Montanez Email
By: Rick Montanez Email
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Hundreds of people rallied for support of the public transit system in the Colorado Springs Thursday. A multi-million dollar city budget shortfall may leave some people without a ride around town.

A new study shows public transit ridership in Colorado is up by 8%, according to Environment Colorado.

Many of the riders that showed up to the rally are elderly or handicapped. For rider Tracy Olderbik getting around town is no easy task. But it provides her some freedom. "Its a freedom that, until I got the wheelchair and was able to use the buses, that I had never really known," said Olderbik.

A panel of both city and transit leaders held discussions with the large group of bus riders.
Colorado Springs City Council member Bernie Herpin tells 11 News, a $25 million shortfall in the city budget may mean cutting night and weekend bus routes. "We have to prioritize the things the city has to fund," said Herpin.

The city's major focus right now is not having to lay off any police officers or fire fighters. "Over 50% of our current budget goes to public safety,” Herpin said. “So if you try to leave that as a whole as possible, that doesn't leave you a whole lot of areas to cut."

Coming up in November, voters will have the chance to decide to up taxes. If they do, the city hopes to have enough money to keep transit funds the same as they are this year.

But for riders like Olderbik, if the extra money doesn't come into the city, a cut in routes is a cut in her freedom. "I'll be sitting at home a lot more, doing nothing," said Olderbik.

Another problem the city faces, if the funding doesn't come through and bus routes are cut, it would have to sell the buses that aren't being used. Its part of their federal funding rules. If that happens and the city eventually gets the funding back, it would have to buy the buses back.

City council members will get their first look at the 2010 preliminary budget next week.

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