Bus service hits funding speed bump

By: Tyler Koester
Students who are frequent riders of the PACT bus can expect minor route and schedule changes this year. This comes as a result of the Kansas Housing Services Corporation initiating cuts to the Community Services Block Grant that has been supporting the transportation service.
Although 70 percent of state and federal funding is in effect to preserve existing services, the remaining 30 percent in matching funds is left in the breakdown lane.
“Our actions result from a local match funding shortfall,” said Steve Lohr, SEK-CAP executive director. “We planned for it and were successful in maintaining our state (20 percent) and federal (50 percent) funding. Because we cannot immediately generate the local match, we’re in a tough position.”
Changes to the service, which went into effect July 1, include the curtailing of service to one bus instead of two and the operation of the service in a more concentrated area of southern Pittsburg 11 hours a day Monday through Friday. On top of this, late afternoon and evening runs will be in effect from the southern route to Wal-Mart in north Pittsburg by means of the U.S. 69 bypass.
But all is not lost, since Lohr says that those wishing to schedule rides 24 hours in advance can still do so, as he and the organization continue to sniff out the remaining matching funds to reinstate full service.
Among the students affected by these changes are frequent bus riders Mariana Berselli and Ana Ayres, exchange students from Brazil. Despite these challenges, the two had nothing but good things to say about the service.
“The experience has been good,” Berselli said. “The driver always helps when I ask where the nearest stop is or where I should stop to go somewhere.”
Berselli and Ayres ride the bus mainly to get their groceries and other necessities from Wal-Mart and other places, but there’s no limit to where a student may want to go in Pittsburg. The best part about the service is that it’s free – just familiarize yourself with the schedule to find where the nearest stop is and what time the driver will be there.
Berselli has a few words of advice to incoming freshmen and others new to the service: Don’t buy products that are too bulky since the bus is not that big. Also, pay attention to when the driver has his breaks so you don’t need to get out of the bus and wait outside while the driver takes time off.
About the curtailment of the service, Ayres assures freshmen that they have nothing to fear.
“They are changing the schedule and that may cause a few inconveniences at first,” Ayres said. “But I am sure that the new students will be very thankful for that service after a few days here.”

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