Budget Cuts Force Tulsa Transit To Cut Routes, Raise Fare

Thursday, April 17th 2014, 11:09 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Transit is taking drastic measures as part of the city hall budget crunch. They told Tulsa bus riders it was between raising fares or cutting routes, now it turns out, it's both.

While most departments were planning for a 10 percent cut, Tulsa Transit said it's being asked to cut more, about a $1 million cut from what they have this year.

The Denver Station is the downtown hub for the bus service, and for many of the riders, Tulsa Transit is their only set of wheels.

4/8/2014 Related Story: Changes To Tulsa Transit May Leave Nighttime Riders Stranded

Riders like Shanice Young count on the service, every day.

"Other than the long wait, it's fine, it gets me where I need to go, so I don't complain," Young said.

But Tulsa Transit is at a turning point, needing to both cut service to save money, and raise fares to get more income.

About half of the cost of the bus service comes from the city of Tulsa, where major budget cuts are on the road ahead. The budget cuts at city hall are going to mean service cuts for Tulsa Transit. The only questions are how deep will the budget cuts be and how significant will the service cuts be?

"Regardless of who is getting cut, it impacts their lives. Most of our riders don't have other transportation. They are truly transit dependent," said Debbie Ruggles, Tulsa Transit Assistant G.M.

Ruggles said she hoped a 25-cent fare increase would allow them to only make slight cuts. But she said the city budget forecast is clearly for more significant cuts.

"The cuts may be slightly deeper, a couple of hundred thousand dollars deeper, than we envisioned when the options were created," Ruggles.

So now, Tulsa Transit plans to raise the $1.50 regular fare by a quarter. One route in east Tulsa will be shortened, a west Tulsa route will be eliminated and the night line will stop at the end of June.

That's what worries transit rider John Ward, who takes the night bus.

"Since they're going to cut nightline out, the people who work at night, they have to have transportation and some people don't have transportation coming back and forth," Ward said.

I asked a city spokesperson about the budget, she said it wasn't final yet, but the mayor would have it to the city council by May 1st.

The council and mayor have to agree on it by July 1st.