Transportation Coalition Oversees Casper Public Transit Systems
The local nonprofit public transportation system has the simple goal of moving people from one place to another.
Paying for it isn't so simple, in part because of the efforts to balance the City of Casper's budget.
The city is one of the financial supporters of the 36-year-old Casper Area Transportation Coalition, or CATC for short, that oversees two separate systems called "CATC" and "The Bus."
Marge Cole, CATC's executive director since its founding, said she understands the city's position, but budget cuts have consequences.
"They are attempting to balance the budget, which we're in full support of," Cole said. "But as a result of that, we may see some service reductions."
The demand-response bus system called CATC -- the buses are cream-colored -- started as a service for the elderly, disabled, blind, deaf and others who do not have access to other transportation. Those who use it -- the demand side -- for door-to-door service (for example, to a doctor's office) must call for an appointment two days in advance.
In 2005, the City of Casper created the fixed-route system for The Bus -- the white buses with the blue, red, green and yellow stripes. The six routes serve Casper, Evansville and Mills.
The Coalition has 37 employees and 18 vehicles owned by Casper. Mills and Evansville each own a bus, and their buses are integrated into "The Bus" routes.
The funding is complex.
CATC has a proposed operating budget of $2.2 million including the $313,673 -- from the General Fund and Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues -- for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the same as for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
Former councilmember Carol Crump, who works with CATC, said at a city council work session on Tuesday that the proposed budget has no raises or additional administrative costs, and the operations budget is flat. However, fuel costs are expected to go up and preventative maintenance at the city garage will rise from $58 per hour to $85 per hour. There are no proposed changes in service.
The recommendation for the 2018-2019 budget -- after discussions with city staff and CATC -- would cut the Casper support to $155,000, according to a memo from Liz Becher of the Community Development Department and Aaron Kloke of the Metropolitan Planning Organization in council's work session agenda.
The City Council is expected to vote on the new budget next Tuesday.
But it's not just a gap of $158,673 that CATC would need to close, because that local money attracts a like amount of money from the Federal Transit Administration.
"The budget for operation, bus purchases, repair and maintenance for CATC is provided by combining funding from the FTA and the Wyoming Department of Transportation with required matching contributions from the local governments in Casper, Mills, Evansville, Bar Nunn and Natrona County and service contracts," according to the agenda. "Passenger fares are income for operations but do not count as a local match."
While there are some variations, the fares for The Bus are $1 for the general fare, 75 cents for students, 50 cents reduced fare (for the elderly, disabled and Medicare participants), and free for children 5 and under.
Fares for CATC -- the demand-response, door-to-door service -- are $5 for the general public, $2 for reduced fare users, and $1 for children under 12.
CATC also has monthly passes.
Both CATC and The Bus operate from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On Saturday, The Bus serves Casper only from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and CATC is the only public transit service in Mills and Evansville.