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      Riders hope bus system keeps moving

      Rodney James

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - It has its supporters and detractors, but for many commuters the public bus system in the Columbia area is their only way to get from point A to point B.

      For several years, local leaders have been trying to find a way to pay for the system and make improvements.

      Rodney James is a regular on the 34 Route.

      "I don't have a car at the present time, I use the transportation system to get to and from I need to go," he says.

      James worries about the funding crisis facing the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority. He's not sure what he would do if the service went away.

      "Especially with the job, I might lose my job. It concerns me with doctors appointments and things like that."

      Related Stories Trolleys coming back to downtown Columbia? CMRTA offers service to riders during bad weather Tensions surface between city, CMRTA on transit funding

      The CMRTA suffered a big blow last fall when Richland County voters struck down a penny sales tax referendum that would have funded the system. CMRTA Marketting Director Brittany McMillan says the penny tax proposal could come up again in 2012, adding there's a laundry list of items the tax revenues would cover.

      "Increasing our frequency of service to every 15 minutes at peak corridors, expanding service out into the county," McMillan explains. "There's a lot of areas like Eastover and Blythewood that we don't serve now, running earlier in the morning, later at night."

      Bus rider Wesley Coston is among those who would like to see an increase in that frequency.

      "I have to be at work at 7 a.m., The bus gets to my place at 7 a.m., then I get to work at 8 a.m.," he says.

      McMillan says CMRTA is working everyday to make sure routes aren't over or underserved.

      "We have electronic fare boxes, so they record everytime someone gets on the bus. We use that data to look and see how many people are riding at different times of the day, so we're able to see if there's low ridership on a particular route."

      McMillan says CMRTA is funded through June. Richland County and the City of Columbia are trying to a revenue source to fund the system through 2012.

      Where do you think funding should come from for the CMRTA, or do you think it should be publicly funded at all? Leave a comment to weigh in below.