The Jo’s financial problems are going to affect the future of transit for thousands of people in Johnson County.
But instead of a comprehensive approach to this issue, the County Commission in the last few years has simply decided that cutbacks to routes and funding are appropriate.
Plus, ridership costs are proposed to rise by 10 to 15 percent for most routes and passes in 2013.
Good transit is becoming even more crucial to the future of Johnson County as the numbers of elderly and low-income residents continue to rise. The commission — and The JO’s leaders — must be acting creatively to stretch funding and keep routes alive.
Some moves have been made in that regard. For instance, several planned route reductions from 2012 were not put in place for 2013, after criticism was aimed at The Jo and the commission.
However, as recent events have shown, sharp questions continue to exist about how well this situation is being handled.
Groups that advocate for minorities and low-income workers have asked the Federal Transit Authority to review the recent cuts and whether they were discriminatory.
It’s a point that must be answered, especially if county officials are trying to do something that would defy federal rules. That would include trying to starve transit to reduce ridership as part of a vicious cycle of cutbacks.
Some county commissioners continue to complain that The Jo runs a deficit. Yes, many transit agencies do, and they require federal, state and local funds to keep going.
The long-term question is how much value will Johnson County’s leaders put on mass transit and its ability to build a better future for so many people?
The county ultimately will have to provide a better answer than the one offered right now — more cutbacks and higher costs for passengers.
Even though ridership has gone up the last two years, it could slip this year if the fare increases are approved after public hearings in early February.
Those meetings would be a perfect time for riders, The Jo’s officials and advocates like new Johnson County Commission Steve Klika to offer other ideas on how to improve transit in Johnson County.