COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More than a million passengers have ridden the Midlands' bus service so far this year. It's called the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, or RTA.
For many, it's the only way to get to work. Yet, the future of this service is in jeopardy. Why? Because of funding.
A Richland County vehicle registration fee is keeping the system running, but that fee expires in October.
One proposal to raise funds for the system is a one penny sales tax increase in the county. That's what the Charleston bus system relies on. After the first attempt to pass a sales tax increase there failed, bus service was drastically cut, people lost jobs and it hurt the economy. After that, Charleston finally passed a tax referendum by a 60-40 margin.
Richland County Council killed a referendum on a penny tax increase for this year. So next June, if nothing happens, the Midlands system will grind to a halt. Columbia Mayor Bob Coble says it is unconscionable to let this system stop running and I agree.
RTA ridership was up 4 percent in June compared to last year. For people who need the bus to get to work or the doctor, for our economy and for our environment, leaders in the Midlands must find a funding source, at least a temporary one, to keep the system running.