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KAT funding approved

With a Board of Mayor and Aldermen of only four Thursday night, June 23, Knoxville Area Transit received its grant funding of $40,000 nearly by default.

The Board, minus Alderman Bob Markli, approved the Town’s fiscal year 2012 budget, on second and final reading, after a tie vote on whether the Town should remove funding for KAT’s express bus route from downtown to the Town’s park and ride lot off Campbell Station Road.

The tie vote essentially translated to no action being taken on the motion to remove the funding, which means KAT got its money. Alderman Ron Honken and Mayor Ralph McGill voted to remove the funding; Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche and Alderman Jeff Elliott voted against that motion.

Honken took issue with KAT’s $40,000 funding, which he also questioned at first reading of the budget.

“We’re subsidizing this somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 per person. And I will tell you, I have not seen anyone walking to the bus. Everyone drove to the bus. It would be cheaper for us to go down to Kroger and buy each of them a $500 gas card,” Honken said.

“I’m all for public transportation and I have used public transportation, but this just seems like an extreme amount on a per person basis,” he added.

At its last meeting, the Board requested statistics regarding KAT’s ridership numbers for this route. The numbers show about a 400-rider average, per month, over the last year. Town Administrator David Smoak said that translated to about 11 riders per bus per day.

“If you have 11 people going down and back on each of these busses, that would be considered 44 riders for that day. So if you take that number and multiply it by 20 [work] days a month, you’re talking, at most, 30 people who are utilizing this service. It’s not 463,” Honken said.

Smoak said, “Obviously, the same people tend to ride the bus every day, and they take up the large majority of that number [of riders].”

Elliott noted KAT’s ridership hadn’t seemed to appreciably increase as gas prices rose.

“That’s interesting,” he said.

Smoak pointed out a steady KAT ridership wasn’t reflective of the use of the park and ride lot, which the Town has a separate contract for. The use of the lot actually had increased over the past four or five months, Smoak said.

“TVA has a park and ride they take up from there,” he said. The lot also serves as a trailhead for the Grigsby Chapel Greenway, and Smoak said he suspected carpoolers use the lot as well.

Honken initially wanted to remove the $40,000 and put all of that money toward schools Farragut children attend, and made a motion to that effect.

“I doubt anyone would ever come here and ask about public transportation, but everyone asks about schools,” he said.

McGill recommended Honken make a motion that wasn’t so convoluted, and Honken amended his motion to simply not fund KAT, with no stipulations as to what else the $40,000 could be used for.

That was the motion that tied.

Honken then made a new motion, to pull an extra $10,000 from the general fund and apply it to the not-yet-formed Hardin Valley Academy Foundation. That motion was unanimously approved.

The budget then was approved with only minor changes, largely made to reflect more accurate estimates on health care and personnel costs, including a new Town staff position for a sustainability coordinator.


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