Federal Shutdown Could Shut Down Lakeland Buses

LAKELAND (970 WFLA) -- A transit system serving Lakeland and Winter Haven is taking a hit from the federal government's partial shutdown. 

The Polk County transit system gets 50 percent of its operating funds from the federal government. But Citrus Connection hasn't been able to access a dime, since the partial shutdown December 22nd. Citrus Connection executive director Tom Phillips says they're able to keep the system running with fares, plus money from local and state coffers. But that can't go on forever. 

The law requires a six week notification before service cutbacks... meaning that Phillips will announce emergency measures if the shutdown isn't resolved by the February 13th board meeting. Options including cutting routes, putting administrators on furlough, asking for more money from local governments, or taking out a loan.

Phillips says raising fares wouldn't help. With only 2.4 million rides per year, he says Citrus Connection would have to double or triple its fares to make up the loss of federal funding. Polk county is the seventh poorest suburban county in the nation, with 17 percent of residents below the poverty line. Phillips says 87 percent of users of Citrus Connection have no other access to personal transportation. 

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