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Cutting CC Rider would not save the jail, would hurt those who need it

I have heard comments regarding CC Rider and the public transportation services it provides to the citizens of Columbia County. There are myths and misunderstandings about how funding for transportation and other grant programs work. They go something like this: If the commissioners got rid of their “pet projects,” i.e., CC Rider’s public transit for seniors, disabled and those who need transportation to get to work, there would be ample money to fund the jail or any other project. This is not true, and the myths take away from the valuable service that public transit provides — not only for me, but for others who rely on the service.

Some suggest the Rider is providing the same transit services as a metropolitan area. While the Rider does not and cannot compete with bigger transit agencies, we do need transit services. I am thankful that the Rider can’t compete, because we get such good service. Columbia County is a large area and I would not want us to change the service we get with the Rider. This county has a large number of people who commute to and from work and use public transit to get there. For those who use the bus to get to work, having bus service literally allows them to keep their jobs. Riding the bus saves them money.

Perhaps those who say that public transit in Columbia County is nothing but a “pet project” of the commissioners should have heard the comments I heard from other seniors who suddenly could not get to their doctor appointments, or to dialysis, or to the grocery store, because of the 64 percent cut in service that happened last year.

That cut in service was pretty much limited to the fact that the Rider does not have a stable source of funding and was not able raise enough local cash through the Community Contribution process to match the state and federal funds that were awarded. This cost our county $260,000 in federal and state funding that the Rider could have used to provide transit services and jobs to local people who drive the buses. I understand from Rider staff that match rates vary for specific uses of the funds (some are 10.27 percent in maintenance match costs; operation match cost is 43.92 percent). For operations, all that would have been needed was $114,192 in order to get that $260,000. We would have had $375,000 in additional service if we would have had the match money I think services would not have been cut as drastically if the match for the grant had been there.

I believe that the Rider is a necessity to those who cannot drive, don’t drive, don’t own a car, are sick, elderly, or need to get to work. Public transportation is not the commissioners “pet project.” It is a service that we all can be proud of and we should want to put our stamp of approval on.

In terms of value to Columbia County residents, I know the Rider gets calls asking about how service can be increased. If I didn’t have the Rider, I would be begging for someone to get me to my doctor appointments or take me to the grocery store. The Rider picks me up at my door and brings me back. There is no taxi that I know of that would do that for $4.40. Many of you think that family will “take up the slack” when a loved one needs transportation. This thinking is just wrong and misguided. If any of you reading this have ever been dependent on others for anything, then you know exactly what I mean. To say that we don’t need public transportation is to say that we want to take away our own independence, because we are saying that we will never be in a position to have to need or use public transit, or perhaps we have not thought about what we’d do if we couldn’t drive. I used to think the same way, and boy, was I shocked when I woke up one day and couldn’t get where I needed to go. To say that we should dump the Rider because of the pittance they get from the general fund is not a solution.

Many of you know me and know that I don’t support just anything. I check my facts and do the best research I can before I support any issue. Everyone who knows me also knows that I don’t support services that are not needed or properly run.

I agree a functioning jail is important, but keeping and supporting the Rider should not be used as an excuse for any problems we have with the jail. In my view, the Rider is a necessity. We need to support the Rider and the great service it, and the people who operate it, provide.

Thelma Bonar lives in Warren.