Public Transit is at the Heart of Transportation

Recently I was speaking with a gentleman from Berea - one of our state's most beautiful communities. This person, a transit advocate, and I began to discuss the benefits of having a strong transit network. We both agreed that transit provides personal mobility for people from every walk of life - regardless of age, class, or gender. We also agreed that transit provides access to work, school, medical services, or social activities. We also both agreed that having a transit system encouraged economic development. In fact, many of Kentucky's transit systems provide route services to major employers, helping ensure a reliable work force.

He and I both anticipate more Kentuckians will need to access Kentucky's transit services as the baby boomers, our state's largest population, age.

And we both agreed that, even though we have a statewide transit network, we still have transit needs in the state of Kentucky.

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My new friend has travelled both at home and abroad. He, like many people, is fond of Europe's transit system. He is also fond of subways, light rail, connected by buses.

I think all those things are great too - but today, that just isn't a reality.

According to AASHTO's 2016 Survey of State Funding Report for Public Transportation, the state of Kentucky budgets nearly $2 million per year for public transportation. That is $2 million per year from the state - in total.

Those state funds are used to meet the match requirement for obtaining federal dollars. Those federal dollars are used to help update and upgrade equipment - and provide some services.

When you are talking about your personal bank account, $2 million sounds like quite a bit of money. But when you are talking about a statewide transit network that covers each county, $2 million isn't very much.

In fact, it is about  $0.42 per person. That is a total per Kentuckian per year. That isn't much. I can't even buy a commemorative penny at the zoo for $.0.42.

Our transit network provides an incredible service to so many Kentuckians today - literally for pennies on the dollar. More than 31 million trips were taken last year using Kentucky's transit network. Most of those trips were to school and work.

So we've done lots with the little state money we've had. But the reality is we need more money to provide more services.

As Vicki Bourne has stated many times, transit is the heart of a strong transportation system.  We already have a strong transit network in place to move our people to jobs, school, medical care, and anywhere else they need to go. And we will need to make improvements to our transit network - and that includes improving the system we have - but it will take more than $0.42 per person to get us there.