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City Beat

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by Steven Diegel

Area residents may benefit from less expensive fares and other proposed changes to the city transit system, outlined in a resolution presented earlier last week at the City Council meeting.

Working through a relatively light agenda, council members heard discussion on proposed changes to the transit system which take aim at reducing fares and reÐestablishing a greater amount of ridership.

Kathy Fritts, transportation manager for City Utilities, said alterations would include decreasing the youth fare to 50 cents, reinstating weekly and monthly unlimited passes, which were largely eliminated last year, and offering discounted annual passes.

Fritts said she expected the moves to increase overall ridership on the system, which, with increased fares and fewer routes, dropped to a little more than 1 million last year from the 1996 total ridership of 1.3 million.

"Our revenues were up by $97,000 last year, but our ridership was down," Fritts said. "Now the goal is to increase ridership."

Several discount packages will also take aim at increasing the number of students who use the system, including a summer youth pass for $50 and a semester pass for college students for $75.

"Those are an attempt to work with the colleges and universities in town," Fritts said. "One of our goals is to get the kids and the students feeling comfortable riding the transit system."

Several council members seemed receptive to the motion, which they should vote on at their next meeting, scheduled for March 30.

The council also heard discussion of the possibility of appropriating funds expected from the quarterÐcent sales tax approved by voters on Feb. 3. The resolution would add more than $14 million to the Public Works Department and over $5 million to the Parks Department to provide funding for the capital improvements program for 1998Ð2001.

While revenues will not actually become available until November, City Manager Tom Finnie said the early access to monies will allow them to get a head start on planned right-of-way acquisitions and other priority projects.

"Rather than wait until technically the money starts coming in, we can frontÐend a loan from the fund balance to this account and then pay it back," Finnie said. "That way we lose no momentum and can keep things moving as approved by the voters."

The council is expected to consider the matter at its next meeting.

Council members voted 8Ð0 to approve a resolution reaffirming the top five priorities for the upcoming year. Issues include public safety, transportation and traffic, economic development and quality of life, connecting citizens and the city, and long-range planning from Vision 20/20 recommendations.

Councilman Gary Gibson stressed that the issues were listed in no particular order and no single item would receive higher priority than the others.

"All five are of equal priority," Gibson said. "While one may have more emphasis placed upon it than another from time to time, all are equally important."

The council also concluded business on several items discussed at previous meetings, including a unanimous vote to approve proposed adjustments to the city's dangerous-building code. The move places greater penalties and fines directly upon property owners who allow buildings to become safety hazards.

The city formerly placed liens against such properties, preventing them from being sold or transferred until the liens were paid off. This proved ineffective, as more than 60 unpaid liens accumulated over the past 10 years. City officials estimate that perhaps half of them would ever be paid.

Council members also unanimously approved several proposals which allow the city to condemn right of way for road-improvement projects slated for the intersections of Battlefield Road and Glenstone Avenue, and Battlefield Road and Campbell Avenue.

Marc Thornsbury, director of Public Works for the city of Springfield, previously reported he did not expect the city to need the condemnation, but he wanted to eliminate any potential roadblocks before commencing work this spring.

Plans call for widening the dimensions of the two intersections to allow for additional leftÐturn lanes and easier right turns into the flow of traffic.

The projects, which should cost an estimated $1.5 million each, should ease congestion from more than

65,000 cars passing through the area every day.

INSET CAPTION:

'Our revenues were up by $97,000 last year,

but our ridership was down. Now the goal is

to increase ridership.'

Kathy Fritts

City Utilities[[In-content Ad]]

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