Jennifer Clark, the Independence director of community development, approached me after I spoke to the City Council on May 4 with an invitation to actively try to actually apply for some public bus transit funding at the next available dispensation.

Most of the available grants such as the Region 7 DERA and SAFETEA-LU TCSP are now past application deadline, and while it is unfortunate that these opportunities were missed, one of which would have provided between $500,000 and $5 million for transit operations, one must always assume it is always better to be late than never.

Back on Dec. 15, when I spoke to the City Council, we handed to the mayor and council members a color-coded packet of bus route maps and the points served, including all the TANF-qualifying and low-income various venues listed. Every single route had between 1 and 11 TANF-qualifiers as well as qualifiers for other grant venues. I was even able to provide the city manager with the spare that Council Member Young declined to receive when Councilman Schulz asked that he also get a copy. Unfortunately, no positive activity was taken with regard to this attempt to provide helpful connections with which to work to qualify for grant funding.

After I spoke to the council on April 20, Schulz stated outdoors after the session that he now cared about public bus service reductions and would like to see the funding problem remedied for restoration of services. So with these new offerings of possible cooperation and real action being offered, we now handed out the color-coded packets again, this time specifically to Clark and Schulz, who specifically asked for material upon which to act to at least obtain the next possible available grant funding date.

This time, I even included a few summary sheets with handy other tips and descriptive connections to help speed up the process of getting to the right place at the correct time. This included information about real Para-Transit in a similar city as regards population and citizen need in Missouri. They will share “how-to” information with the city staff grant proposal writers, for achieving real results as they have done that allow for eight lift-equipped para-transit mini-buses that carried 27,000 riders in 2008 alone, in addition to all their regular public bus transit. We can and must emulate them.

Also, on April 29, the American Lung Association ranked the Kansas City area as No. 22 out of the 25 U.S. cities with the worst air pollution. That should allow the city to refile a grant proposal with CMAQ for funds as soon as they become available, if they act now.

I am hoping they are truly serious now and will actively move forward, but we will see very shortly if this was real sincerity or more lip service.

Erin Burroughs is chair of the Committee to Preserve Independence Bus Transit.

How’s that again?
Some of the government’s mass transit jargon.
SAFETEA-LU is the safe, accountable, flexible, efficient transportation equity act: a legacy for users, a federal law signed in 2005.
DERA is the diesel emissions reduction act, also a federal law passed in 2005.
TANF is temporary assistance for needy families.
CMAQ is the congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program.