City may raise bus fares, trim routes

05/11/2011 12:00 AM

05/11/2011 12:07 AM

Wichita bus fares will probably have to go up or the city will have to trim its already minimal routes and hours later this summer.

That is because the soaring cost of diesel fuel comes at the same time the city is no longer cushioned by federal stimulus dollars, Michael Vinson, director of Wichita Transit, said Tuesday.

That's led to a roughly $1 million deficit.

"It's kind of a double whammy," he said.

Vinson said his department will calculate some options — increasing fares, cutting services and combinations of each.

The only other option appears to be tapping the city's already strained coffers for more help.

Not likely, Vinson said.

Bus fares are $1.25, but most riders have to transfer on the city's hub-and-spoke system, costing them another 25 cents.

That's similar to comparable cities, Vinson said. But if Wichita increases its rates, it will be among the most expensive for riders while offering bare-bones routes and hours.

City buses don't run in the evenings or on Sundays.

Bus fares cover about 20 percent of the system's operating cost. The rest comes from local, state and federal sources.

Vinson said Wichita will likely get more operating funds from the state in future years and that federal officials have discussed allowing cities to use federal funds for operational costs, which is not currently allowed.

Those things could help protect Wichita's system, he said.

"Our hope is to improve the service ultimately," he said. "This is a setback for now. But we have some hopes in the future."

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