October 2, 2012

OUR VIEW: The right call on public transit

WALTON — Congratulations to the Logansport City Council on coming up with $10,000 in matching funds for Cass Area Transit.

Two council members voted against the appropriation, and one argued that the transit system could come up with more than the combined city and county funding simply by boosting the cost of a fare by 25 cents.

Surely everyone can afford an extra quarter, right?

Alas, the funding picture is a bit more complicated.

The lion’s share of the transit system’s $1.4 million budget comes from state and federal grants, but that funding has been dropping, and the Indiana Department of Transportation has indicated it will drop even more in coming years.

The department has asked Cass Area Transit to formulate a five-year plan to have city and county government providing 10 percent of its budget. It hopes the agency will accomplish that through a combination of budget cutting and increased city and county support.

So increasing the cost of a ride won’t help. Having a car wash won’t help. Obtaining more funding from the United Way won’t help.

The only thing that will meet the requirement is increased funding from city and county government, and that means the agency will likely be asking city and county officials for even more funding in the coming years.

Ten percent of the current budget would be $140,000. City and county funding next year will total roughly a quarter of that.

Cass Area Transit makes thousands of trips each year taking people to work, to school, to retail stores and to doctor's appointments.

The agency has a fleet of 24 vehicles that used about 55,000 gallons of fuel traveling nearly 740,000 miles last year. The transit system had more than 3,200 passengers, ranking it as the largest rural transit system in the state.

And until now, it was the only rural public transit system in Indiana that received no funding from city government.

Cass Area Transit is an economic engine for Logansport and Cass County. It not only delivers people to work and to local retail shops, it provides more than 60 jobs.

Council members made the right decision on Cass Area Transit.

They should go to work now to find additional funding for 2014 and beyond.