Casper’s leaders are torn whether to reduce city funding for public transportation.
At Tuesday’s work session, some City Council members balked at the idea of reducing subsidies to the Casper Area Transportation Coalition. The nonprofit relies on city and federal funds to offer low-cost public transit.
“Why would we do this?” asked Councilman Dallas Laird, adding that it seemed “bizarre” to reduce services that help senior citizens and the disabled travel throughout town.
Councilwoman Kenyne Humphrey said she considers public transportation to be a necessity and suggested that the city should close a pool or revisit the idea of seasonal closures at the Fort Caspar Museum before cutting the coalition’s funds.
Explaining that the bus stop near his house is often busy, Councilman Bob Hopkins also expressed concerns about how this change would effect residents who rely on the coalition’s services to get to work.
City staff recently devised two proposals, both of which would reduce the coalition’s funding, as part of the ongoing effort to cut back on spending and become less reliant on state funds.
The first option would reduce general fund contributions by $135,000. As a result, the coalition would have to modify services on several routes and eliminate Saturday services all together.
The second option would make the same changes to the routes but would continue Saturday services. This plan would reduce general fund contributions by $90,000.
Marge Cole, the coalition’s executive director, told the Council that many passengers rely on the organization’s Saturday services. But the director also acknowledged that there are portions of the current routes that aren’t well-utilized.
Modifying these lesser-used routes likely wouldn’t effect too many passengers, she explained.
“We’re comfortable with doing that,” Cole said.
If sections of the routes are barely being used, then there’s no reason for Council members to feel that they are abandoning the elderly or handicapped for making subsequent changes, said Vice Mayor Charlie Powell.
The first proposal was ultimately nixed, but council members will continue to mull over the second option in the coming weeks. A public hearing will be held sometime in the future.
In recent months, City Manager Carter Napier has repeatedly stressed that he would like the city to become less reliant on state funding.
The amount of direct distribution funding provided to local governments wildly fluctuates. The state Legislature has doled out less than $100 million in tight times or as much as $175 million when the economy is strong.
“My goal for the operations of the city is that we do not depend on one-time revenue for operations of the city government,” Napier previously stated.
Katie King covers the city of Casper.