Cities' transit systems may be next to receive bailout

First we bail out banks. Then we bail out automakers. Now we may bail out transit.

Kansas City and St. Louis want a one-time cash infusion from the Missouri General Assembly to spare their communities from bus service cuts.

St. Louis already has backing from state leaders for $20 million, and Kansas City is seeking $14 million to get by until 2011 before making cuts if they're still needed then.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has been working to get support for an emergency appropriation, something that could come as early as today.

"We are preparing for significant service cuts, and the situation in Kansas City is no less dire than in St. Louis," said Mark Huffer, the Kansas City transit authority’s general manager.

The city's transit is in a financial jam even after voters renewed a sales tax for transit last year. A bleak economy forced the city to cut bus service by about $7 million, leaving transit planners in a fix.

The ATA is planning to cut service on about a third of its bus routes, mostly at midday, nights and weekends.

Planners are still tweaking that concept after a series of public hearings on the cuts. ATA commissioners are expected to consider cuts this week.

Meanwhile, city leaders and local state lawmakers didn’t foresee Kansas City getting left behind St. Louis. The money for St. Louis is part of a stimulus spending bill that’s just starting its way through the legislative process.

"I think by the time it's done, you will see money for the ATA in Kansas City," said Rep. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican and member of the House Budget Committee.


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