I've editorialized many times about the sad state of affairs our central midlands transit system is in. Now, after much study and many stop gap measures, CMRTA, Columbia and Richland County officials have revealed their new plan for keeping the buses rolling. This is a pretty comprehensive plan to conserve energy, make the bus system more accessible to riders, balance the budget and maintain fiscal accountability.
We've long maintained that having a viable public transportation system is critical to attracting and retaining the right kind of talent to this area and supporting our existing businesses with reliable transit for their employees. But it's kind of like the chicken and the egg syndrome….which comes first….people demanding an efficient bus system and the community finding a way to provide it, or providing that system as a public service commitment which then encourages folks to take advantage of it? Unless our community is going to use and support a public transportation system, our county and city officials are going to be hard pressed to continue funding it.
I applaud the leadership of CMRTA's Bob Schneider, our Mayor, city and county councils for getting this plan in place and for their shared commitment to the future of public transportation in the Midlands, but I also have doubts about the sustainability of funding without engagement from the community. Will you, as a taxpayer, be willing to support a penny tax proposal if it makes it to the November ballot to help permanently pay for this service? If not, I fear we will be back in the same boat down the road, scrambling to keep the public buses rolling in the Midlands.