In Columbia, South Carolina the Deficit hits the bus system

An unexpectedly huge $3 million budget shortfall for the Columbia area’s bus system is likely to cut the number of routes in half and cost as many as 40 jobs in the company that operates the buses, transit officials disclosed Wednesday.

The figures were released at a specially called meeting of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority board attended by fewer than the required seven-member quorum. The board took no action but asked chairwoman Joyce Dickerson to make an appeal to Columbia City Council to offset $618,000 of the red ink.

That still would leave a $2.5 million shortage for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Read it all.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, City Government, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

7 comments on “In Columbia, South Carolina the Deficit hits the bus system

  1. Sarah says:

    “unexpectedly huge” . . . you have to just smile at that.

    Looks as if the people in Columbia were *dead right* in rejecting the additional sales tax last year to support a bus system that practically nobody uses.

    And rather than accept that referendum rejection of more taxes, the leadership of the city and county [i]chose to randomly add taxes into the utility bills[/i] and designated those additional taxes to the bus budget — a shameless act of government thievery.

    There’s a simple solution to the wholly unsurprising and expected bus budget woes.

    Charge the actual cost of the use of the buses and cut the routes to actually the [few] routes for which there are actual riders.

  2. John Wilkins says:

    In a state that generally dislikes government, it’s not surprising that the government agency is badly managed. It’s the pygmalion effect.

    Why is it that many of these agencies aren’t transparent. I’m glad we have a good public transportation system in NY, but MTA’s unwillingness to open its books is maddening.

  3. Jeremy Bonner says:

    [i]Transit is a necessary part of a thriving community, but Columbia is simply too spread out to make a transit system efficient. There’s just not enough density of population or destinations on any given route to make the system viable. It’s unfortunate, but true.[/i]


    The above comment was posted on the original article. Is it a fair conclusion? I would have assumed that with a significant service sector, it would be in employers’ interest to ensure that car-less workers can actually reach their place of employment.

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi Jeremy Bonner — sorry for the delay in responding.

    I think it is a fair conclusion — but probably a fair conclusion for most urban areas in the Southeast and the West. I don’t think people elsewhere quite understand just how “rural” even the most urban areas here are. The fair capital city of our state has an airport that most in the northeast and midwest would sniff with disdain over. With the exception of perhaps Birmingham, Atlanta, Orlando, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, and a few other major metropolitan areas in the SE I wouldn’t bother with a “transit system” — the routes are very very sparsely populated and there really isn’t much of an “urban center.” The downtown of Columbia — as much as they have tried — is pretty much a ghost-town on the weekends — remember half of the “commerce” is actually government worker.

    I was struck by all of this when I was over in England for a few weeks. They have a small country [no slight intended there], with an excellent rail system, and teensy roads. Over here in the SE and the West, we positively *live* in our cars. I know I do — we are just a massive massive country and a people that loves our space and frankly still quite rural for most of the square miles of the SE and certainly of the West, too. So the differences in, say, the size of cars alone and the rejection of public transit by the vast majority of people has a lot to do with size, sprawl, elbow-room, independence, and rural-life.

    I’ve known people who couldn’t pay their rent — who clung to their cars, with the gas, insurance and other attendant costs. And frankly, it made sense over here. One can sleep in a car and get to any sort of job in a car, while, considering the size of the land and the shape of cities and the lack of big commercial densities [in which all the jobs must reside], one would have to expand a bus system by at least several hundred times to make it similar to public transit systems in, say, NYC or London. There’s just no heart for that — not at the public level nor at the individual impoverished level.

    The lowliest food chain workers here have “beater cars” that they merrily drive around.

    If I were Columbia I’d probably invest in 5-6 vans and ditch the buses, ditch the vast administration and repair costs, [not to mention gas costs] and give people rides. But the leadership there doesn’t have near the creativity or willingness to submit to the actual market on anything — they’re too tired to the State trough and central planning to actually navigate their way to an appropriate solution.

    They’ll probably raise taxes on some other area of businesses in the metro area [now that they’ve done it on utilities] and then five years later wonder why so many businesses have left the metro area.

    Ah well . . . “consequences.”

    The people perish where there is no leadership.

  5. Jeremy Bonner says:


    You’re right about the difference between “little” Britain 🙂 and “big” America. We Brits often don’t appreciate the continental immensity of the US – even I, after all these years and with a historian’s understanding of its implications, still find it somewhat daunting. For us, 300 miles is a serious road trip.

    Incidentally, it may please you to know that on a recent drive – for family reasons – from Pittsburgh to Sarasota, my wife and I were struck by the courtesy of drivers in South Carolina, which was not nearly so noticeable in the other southern states through which we passed.

  6. Sarah says:

    Why thank you for the compliment on our courtesy.

    We may be dreadful drivers [you should watch us if it snows or ices] but at least we will be courteous to you even if we accidentally weave our way into your car. ; > )

    RE: “little” Britain — I realized on my trip, that even with my provincial big American leanings that I could have small cars and small roads and a nice train system since we didn’t spend so much time in cars anyway.

    I once did a thousand car miles for work meetings in a three-state area in around 36 hours over here in the US. It was in part that trip that convinced me that I needed a larger, less bumpy car. I was beaten to a pulp.

    I do think that “wear on the body” is another reason why Americans gravitate to larger cars. It is not just “we are big Americans and must have big things” — it is the wear and tear of so much living in the car for work and getting to meetings in other states.

  7. Lapinbizarre says:

    They’ll be jacking up the property taxes yet again, Sarah, make no mistake. There’s a bigger city government boil on the point of bursting down here – you may or may not have noticed it. Ongoing background –; this week’s developments –

    (FWIW Lawton is godfather to one of the children of Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine)

    Only in Columbia!