Our Opinion: Don’t cut public transit

News Tribune editorial

Public transit riders are mobilizing to oppose cuts to Jefferson City’s transportation system.

We’re on board with them.

Jefferson City operates a bus service, JeffTran, and a para-transit service, Handi Wheels, for people with disabilities.

To close a $1.68 million budget shortfall discovered earlier this year, the City Council in March approved a range of cuts, including reductions to the transit subsidy.

The reductions include a mid-day hiatus, from 11:20 a.m.-2:40 p.m., for transit services.

Because the city receives federal funding for transit operations, a public hearing is required before cuts can be made.

The city plans to host public hearings at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and 3:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. Information from those two hearings will be advanced to the City Council, which is scheduled to host a third public hearing at beginning of its 6 p.m. regular meeting on May 6. Users of the system are organizing to voice their concerns to council members. We share those concerns.

First, public transit is not profitable. (Rail systems in the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Osaka may be the only exceptions.) If transit were profitable, private enterprise would be involved. Public transportation, as its name implies, is a public service.

Public services are not exclusive. Police and firefighters protect everyone. Parks are open to everyone. And buses can be ridden by anyone.

A reality is motor vehicles are a convenient mode of transportation owned by many people. But not everyone.

People rely on public transportation for a number of reasons, including finances, disabilities and revocations.

For them, public transit is their connection — to jobs, doctors, groceries, retailers, entertainment and other events and activities.

Central Missouri enjoys a rich tradition of encouraging everyone to be engaged, to volunteer and to participate actively in community life.

That encouragement is hollow if we reduce the resources that permit participation.

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