Keeping Carroll Transit running CARROLL COUNTY


Betty Ann Walker will have to sell a lot of buttons if Carroll Transit is going to keep its vans running during this period of fiscal austerity. Ms. Walker, an occasional rider, took it upon herself to solicit door-to-door on behalf Carroll Transit, which is experiencing severe financial difficulties. Suspicious neighbors alerted the police, who investigated and notified Carroll Transit of her efforts. Delighted by her initiative, Carroll Transit is giving her all the buttons she can sell.

Selling buttons for $1 each is no way to run a transit company, and Carroll County citizens ought to develop a long-term and predictable method of financing this important organization.

For people without cars or who cannot drive in this rural-suburban county, Carroll Transit is the only transportation option. The 4-year-old, non-profit organization has been providing the county's elderly, handicapped and poor with convenient transportation to jobs, stores, senior centers and medical appointments. Last year, Carroll Transit provided 56,412 trips -- an average of 155 trips every day.

A significant portion of its budget is funded by state agencies that contract with Carroll Transit to provide transportation to work for mentally impaired workers and to medical appointments for elderly, pregnant mothers and medical assistance recipients. However, in response to the state's fiscal crunch, state agencies are cutting back or eliminating their contracts with Carroll Transit. So far, Carroll Transit, which had a budget of $434,000 for the year, has seen $100,000 in revenues evaporate.

Linda Boyer, the executive director, points out that funding Carroll Transit is cheaper than having these state agencies buy their own vans, maintain them and hire drivers. Nevertheless, the agencies have made their cuts and Carroll Transit must cope with them. The condition of the 16-van fleet is good, but some repairs and oil changes are being delayed. Drivers are now cleaning the vans, saving money that might otherwise be spent on cleaning crews. Ms. Boyer is exploring ways to reduce the agency's $50,000 annual insurance bill.

Despite everyone's best efforts to raise money, Carroll Transit has to make up a large shortfall. Selling buttons should be the beginning of a more focused effort to keep Carroll Transit running.

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