Lawmakers and transportation officials in Wichita, Kan., have begun looking at possible sources for additional funding for the city’s bus system, with the current pot projected to run out sometime in 2015. Such a lapse would put severe strain on the city’s public transit system, which averages 2 million riders a year.
The bus problem is just one of several urgent financial issues developing across Wichita, including general fund budget shortcomings, water shortages and a backlog of critical water and sewer system repairs. With so many fires to put out, the bus system has been repeatedly pushed to the back burner by city officials. Making matters worse, budget cuts have eliminated many state and federal grants once used by the transit system.
The current transit system fund—contributed by the city council—amounts to $1.8 million, which will carry the system into early 2015. City council officials believe that a voter-approved tax increase is the only way to save the system at this point
Many of the system’s funding woes can be traced back to a 2011 fare hike that significantly dropped ridership citywide. This downturn, combined with a reputation for breakdowns due to questionable maintenance practices, has made the transit system heavily indebted to the city of Wichita.