INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — There is a cost-saving proposal to cut all six IndeBus routes that serve those who work and live within Independence. But city leaders are working to find funding to keep it going since so many residents describe the service as a lifeline.
"They say they ain’t got enough people riding it, but it’s pretty packed when I’m on it," Robert Denton, an IndeBus rider, said.
With a bus stop a few steps away from his home, Denton can't imagine a future without his main mode of transportation.
"People depend on it for medicine, grocery stores and just go to round out to the Independence center," Denton said.
He is one of the roughly 185,000 passengers who ride the six lines annually.
The city operates the service using money from fares, federal funds and a federal grant.
But as the city prepares its budget, it faces a revenue shortfall of more than $4 million this fiscal year and $2 million dollar next fiscal year – and transit is on the chopping block.
"This is not a matter of priority, it’s not a matter of lack of political will to have bus service for our community," Mayor Eileen Weir said Wednesday during a meeting of the city's transportation policy committee.
According to a city spokesperson, cutting back bus services in the proposed budget saves approximately $825,000 dollars this year and $900,000 in subsequent years.
"I’ve lived here my entire life and there was always an Independence bus system ever since I was a kid," Jared Meihls, a IndeBus rider, said.
The cuts wouldn't impact the city's paratransit services for those with disabilities or over the age of 65. Commuter lines from Independence to Kansas City, Missouri, also wouldn't be affected.
Independence is working with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in the short term to find emergency federal funding.
In the long term, City Manager Zach Walker questioned how KCATA could “play a strong role” in identifying riders, where they are located and their destinations.
Riders are hopeful the city can find the funds before time runs outs.
"I’d ask the mayor and the city to keep the bus, to come up with a better plan,” Tamara Hargrove, an IndeBus rider, said. “Maybe they just run it from 7 to 9 in the morning and 4 and 5 at night.”
A public hearing for the City of Independence budget is scheduled for Monday. Those wishing to speak on the budget are asked to sign up with the city clerk.