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      Bus riders learn about proposed cuts to CMRTA

      WEST COLUMBIA (WACH) -- For nearly a decade, the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority has driven around in circles trying to pick-up a permanent funding source.

      Earlier this year, the bus system was at risk of slowing down, but the City of Columbia and Richland County approved giving the agency the money it needed to operate through September.

      It's now mid-October and CMRTA has a $3 million budget deficit.

      According to CMRTA Operations Manager Larry Livingston, service may be cut by nearly half due to the funding shortfall.

      We must at least propose some changes in order to continue service at some level, Livingston said.

      However, before any route reductions are made, CMRTA is listening to its customers.

      If there is no bus service, the number of people out of work is going to go up even further, says Richland County resident Rose Harp.

      On Tuesday, more than 40 people attended the first of three scheduled public forums to learn what could happen to the bus system.

      If the CMRTA doesn TMt soon find the necessary funding, officials are considering eliminating service on weekends and Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. There would be no mid-day service between the hours of 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. during the weekdays.

      News of the possible reductions did not sit well with some riders.

      A lot of walking is how it would work, and I don't like walking, says Kalimah Salaam. I am too old for it.

      CMRTA Board member Bob Liming agrees. He says an efficient and effective bus system is a must.

      We have got to keep up with transit in this community. It's vital for the needs of every man, woman and child, Liming said.

      It takes $13 million to keep the buses on the road operating at its current level.

      Using money generated from the hospitality tax is one way to keep them rolling, but Liming believes it will take at least a year before that is an option. In the meantime, he TMs hoping local municipalities will give the CMRTA a one last push.

      Here is the schedule of the remaining forums:

      Wednesday, Oct. 19

      5:30 " 7:30 p.m.

      Richland County Public Library

      1431 Assembly Street, Columbia

      Saturday, Oct. 22

      11 a.m. " 1 p.m.

      CMRTA Administration Building

      3616 Lucius Road, Columbia