MATS funding issues worry Montgomery officials

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The city of Montgomery is working on a solution to keep the Montgomery Area Transit System rolling.  The system has a $6 million deficit.  While operating deficits are common for transit agencies, officials are concerned about the possible loss of a federal subsidy.

Late afternoons are a busy time on at the Intermodal Transit Center downtown.

"A lot of us do rely on the buses, I'm one of them," said Charlie Bradford, who takes the bus to her apartment near the old Montgomery Mall.  "I catch the bus because, it's convenient and economical."

It's the same story on Route 10 along South Court Street.

"It's good, it's cheaper and I enjoy being out traveling and seeing people," said Loretta Moreland, a frequent MATS user.

While taking the bus may be inexpensive, running the system is not.  Mayor Todd Strange says it costs $6.7 million to run the system, but it brings in only $700,000 in revenue.  Strange said that means MATS is running a deficit of $6 million.   Strange said the system is limited in its efforts to raise revenue.

"It's regulated how much we can charge by the federal government," Strange said.  "We only charge that buck one way."

Ridership figures were actually down year to year from 107,948 trips last February to 100,107 trips this February.

And the mayor is concerned that the city's growth could actually hurt when it comes to transit funding.  Since the city now has more than 200,000 residents, it could lose a $3 million subsidy that helps pay for transit in smaller cities.

"We and like cities are trying to change that to a 100 bus rule, we only have about 50 or 60 so we would be able to continue that subsidy, obviously that gets in the way of all the cuts that are out there,"  Strange said.

Mayor Strange says part of the reason the city took over the downtown "Lightning Route" was to give MATS more funding flexibility. MATS just began a series of route changes aimed at improving service and avoiding a fare increase.

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