Lunch Box Stop Tomorrow.
The Hemmings Challenge
Vintage Car Rally has selected Carthage
as a "Lunch Box Stop City."
Wednesday, June 24th
more than 60 competing cars will stop at
Precious Moments for lunch. Viewers are
welcome to come out and see. "We are
honored and excited that the rally staff
has chosen Carthage as a Lunchbox
Stop," Wendi Douglas, Director of
Carthage Convention and Visitors
Bureau. "Precious Moments is the
perfect venue for the rally drivers. It
is a peaceful and inspiring place to cool
off and stretch their legs. Additionally,
we are delighted to invite families and
spectators an opportunity to see some
amazing and rare cars from the past. The
drivers are traveling to and from
Springfield and will enjoy our crowd and
special festivities we have planned for
Vintage cars dating
from 1916-1949 will be on display on
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 from 10:30am -
1:30pm with cars scheduled to begin
arrival at 11:32. It is open to the
public and is free to attend.
For more details,
contact the CCVB at 417-359-8181
Transit Systems, Stimulus Windfall Is a Mixed
by David Epstein, ProPublica www.propublica.com
When the recession forced the
strapped St. Louis Metro to cut her local bus
route in March, Emma Perrys freedom went
along with it.
Perry, 58, uses a wheelchair
because of a rare neurological disease. For the
last six years, the St. Louis Metros
Call-A-Ride program, which provides door-to-door
transit for disabled citizens so long as
they are within three-quarters of a mile of a
normal bus route has granted Perry the
independence to go to the library, the movie
theater, her health center, the nursing home
where she volunteered and the church where she
taught and prayed 3 to 5 times a week.
With the nearest route gone,
Perry lost her Call-A-Ride service. Shes
now largely homebound. "Ive lost some
of my independence," she says.
"Ill never get used to it."
Federal stimulus funds have
swooped in to prevent service cuts to healthcare
and education, but no such remediation has been
granted to public transit. Transit systems
nationwide are getting billions for new buses and
trains. According to the language of the stimulus
bill, however, the money cant be spent to
run them -- to pay for operating costs like wages
and fuel. Although national mass-transit
ridership is at a 50-year high, a recent survey
by the American Public Transportation Association
found that 90 percent of transit agencies have
cut service or raised fares.
"One of the difficulties
is that capital funds are available," said
Alane Masui, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento
Regional Transit District, "but we need to
operate the buses we purchase."
On Thursday, the Senate passed
a $106 billion war-funding bill with a partial
fix. The bill includes a provision allowing
transit agencies to use up to 10 percent of their
stimulus money for operating costs. The
legislation will now go to President Obama for
signing, even though the transit provision has
drawn criticism as shortsighted.
"To use money that was
supposed to go toward infrastructure investments
for simply operating expenses is wrong,"
said Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, ranking member on
the House subcommittee that controls
transportation spending. "This is supposed
to be a stimulus package for infrastructure, not
a bailout for local government."
Latham is concerned that
transit agencies will become reliant on the
federal money rather, which disappears in two
years, rather than finding sustainable local
funding sources, or that the government will be
prodded to pay for transit operations
indefinitely. "Theres nothing more
permanent in government than a temporary
program," Latham said.
Even with stimulus money newly
available for operations, many transit agencies
will be balancing services against long-needed
upgrades. "Flexibility is welcomed,"
said Ted Basta, chief of business services for
the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority,
"but in our case, it will be which house to
rob to help the other side."
The deep trouble for transit
agencies has been a decade in the making. Since
1999, urban areas with more than 200,000 people
have been barred from using federal transit funds
to cover operating costs. President Obamas
stimulus plan carried that theme forth by
mandating that the $8.4 billion in stimulus
transit funds go only toward capital
improvements, essentially construction, repair
and new purchases, and not toward filling
operating holes, like the $50 million deficit
that St. Louis Metro is facing.
When the transit provision
becomes law, St. Louis Metro will be able to use
$8 million in stimulus funds to cover a portion
of the deficit, but its not enough to
restore all the decimated suburban bus service or
the hundreds of jobs that were lost. In March,
Metro closed 2,300 bus stops and cut 450 workers.
The stimulus money might be
combined with $12 million in new state funds to
bring back a third of the lost service.
Meanwhile, some of the stimulus capital money
will replace rail ties, according to Tom Shrout
of Citizens for Modern Transit, a group that
advocates expanding St. Louis transit.
"Thats fine," Shrout says,
"but it doesnt have to be done now,
and well lose riders for years if
theres a service cut."
In New York, the state took
evasive action to preempt a $1.8 billion deficit
at the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs
New York City subways and buses and suburban
commuter rail lines. Still, the MTA had to boost
fares about 10 percent even as it spent stimulus
money on a subway line that has been delayed for
The MTA would not comment on
whether funds, if they become available for
operating costs, would be used to eliminate or
reduce fare increases. But even if the entire 10
percent of allowable stimulus spending in the
state of New York were used just to repair the
MTAs deficit, it would not fill the hole.
Gene Russianoff, an attorney
with the New York City Straphangers
Campaign, which advocates on behalf of transit
riders, supports some of the MTAs capital
projects. But he bemoans the loss of 570 customer
service agents in train stations. "The MTA
[safety] slogan is If you see something,
say something," he says. "But to
In desperation, some transit
agencies have shuffled money around, trying to
find any way that restricted state and stimulus
funds can plug operating and maintenance holes.
The MARTA system in Atlanta
faced cuts so steep that officials threatened to
eliminate an entire day of service each week. So
the Atlanta Regional Commission, an
intergovernmental planning agency, agreed to give
MARTA $25 million in stimulus funds for
"preventative maintenance," which is
allowed by the stimulus bill. In return, MARTA
will give the ARC $25 million from its own
capital projects coffers, money that according to
state law could only have been used for new
"Its this crazy
round-robin of trying to find ways to actually
operate the transit that got funded in the
stimulus," says David Goldberg, a spokesman
for Transportation for America, a national
coalition of mass transit backers including
foundations, AARP, and environmental, bicycle and
In light of the drastic transit
cuts in his state, Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., has
proposed federal legislation that would remove
the ban on spending transit money for operations
in cities of 200,000 or more. "The
congressman has signed on to letters to open up
some of the [stimulus] money," says Jim
Hubbard, a spokesman for Carnahan, "but this
would be a long-term fix."
Carnahans bill could be a
lifeline for agencies like the Sacramento
Regional Transit District. California, which is
confronting a $24 billion state budget deficit,
eliminated public transit funding for the next
five years. So SRTD is trying everything,
including partnering with Coca-Cola, which will
pay to install kiosks with vending machines and
advertising at light rail stations.
Despite employee furloughs, a
hiring freeze, a MARTA-like shuffling of stimulus
money, a fare hike in January and another
one going to a vote on Monday, Sacramento may
have to cut service on more than 10 percent of
The stopgap provision in the
war funding bill will free up $2.2 million in
stimulus funds for operating costs. "I would
seriously consider using that," said Mike
Wiley, general manager and CEO of the SRTD.
"The No. 1 priority for us is maintaining
our level of service on the street."