Shutdown could hurt local public transportation

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For many people in the Piedmont, public transit is a cheap and easy way to get around.

Renee Love uses the buses in Thomasville frequently.

“A lot of people that are under privileged or under poverty level, they really depend on that bus. It’s really a big lifesaver, especially in the heat during the summer and the winter. A lot of them are handicapped and that’s the only access they have to the hospitals and to get around,” she explained.

David Gould agreed, saying he and his family also use public transit.

“It’s important because there’s a lot of people that can’t walk that go for the bus so they don’t have to walk. People going to work, doctors offices, things like that,” he explained.

In Alamance County, the Transportation Authority says they run more than 300 trips every day.

Director Dennis Williams said right now they can not access more than $800,000 in funds because of the government shutdown. That money accounts for about 42 percent of their overall budget.

“It is a serious situation,” Williams said, “We’ve been fortunate the last year and this year to have some funding specifically for elderly and disabled where we can give them additional trips like going to the grocery store.”

But, unfortunately, those are the sort of programs and trips ACTA will have to cut if the shutdown continues.

Williams says with the state and county’s help, they have enough money to keep running for about sixty days.

He explained each transportation group in the Piedmont has varying percentages of funding from the local, county, and federal government, so not every group will be affected at the same time or in the same way.

Winston-Salem Transit Authority has about $4.2 million in operating funds and grants from the federal government, according to General Manager Art Barnes. He said they won’t be able to get certain reimbursements right now, and the city will cover the costs as long as it can.

Davidson County Transportation Manager Steve Swaim said they have $300,000 in grants tied up right now because of the shutdown. They don’t predict having to halt services or routes for now, but are keeping close tabs on the potential impacts of the shutdown.

Guilford Transportation and Mobility Services has one $11,000 grant through the City of High Point allocated by the federal government.

“As of right now we are okay,” explained Myra Thompson. “The majority of Guilford’s transportation funding is for Medicaid transportation and that has not been affected as well as the funding we receive from the state Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP),” Swaim said.

Transportation Director Adam Fischer with the Greensboro Transit Authority said, “We do not expect any permanent cuts to transit funding, just a slowdown in disbursements from the Federal Government. We are due an disbursement from the Federal Transit Administration at the end of this month. If the government shutdown is not resolved by then, we will use some reserve funds.”

Fischer added, “If the shutdown continues, we would continue to use reserve funds through the next quarter which ends December 31. That’s all we know for now.”

Executive Director Scott Rhine with Piedmont Area Regional Transit (PART) said, “Our direct impact to date is dealing with the delays we are experiencing with communication. We have to put on hold decisions our agency needs to make because we cannot obtain direction from both NCDOT and the federal agencies.”

Rhine said project activity is normal for now, and funding delays would have an impact in December.

Roger King with the Regional Coordinated Area Transportation System (RCATS) for Randolph and Montgomery Counties said they have not altered or changed services yet because of the shutdown.

“We hope the folks in Washington will make the appropriate decisions as quickly as they can so we can continue to provide services to their constituents who need them,” Williams concluded.

Love added, “I just hope the good Lord puts his hand in it for a decision to be made.”


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