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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

UF proposes funding cuts to Gainesville Regional Transit program

City commission will meet April 11 to address RTS budget

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-cc3be417-7fff-d538-c106-cbede4783db7"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cc3be417-7fff-d538-c106-cbede4783db7">People board and exit an RTS bus Wednesday, July 24, 2019 by the The Hub at UF.</span></span></p>

People board and exit an RTS bus Wednesday, July 24, 2019 by the The Hub at UF.

CORRECTION: The Alligator incorrectly reported the year the Gainesville Regional Transit System was introduced. The article has been updated to reflect the correct year.

The Gainesville Regional Transit System, originally introduced in 1998, provides unlimited bus service for University of Florida students, faculty and staff.

To provide this service, UF currently contributes $13.7 million to the system. However, a new proposal beginning July 1 would allow UF to make monthly payments of $570,000, totaling to $6.8 million, and a decreased contribution of over 50%.

RTS receives close to 50% of its funding from the university.

UF called the current system “no longer substantiable,” and cited cost as a concern, according to a release from the city of Gainesville.

Steve Orlando, UF's associate vice president for communications, said the city's news release came as a surprise.

"There seems to be a major misunderstanding on the city's part," he said in a statement. "The University of Florida has made no announcements and believed that our good faith talks were ongoing. We were surprised to learn about this press conference, because we recently asked the city to give us transparent data on their operating costs." 

In 2024, the university utilizes more than two-thirds of the transit system, while paying half of the total bill. This proposal would reduce them to paying one-quarter of the bill, Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward said in an X post

As a result of this decreased financial contribution, RTS would be unable to keep up with its current amount of buses and in turn, could have to eliminate numerous buses and routes, said Gainesville Transportation Director Jesus Gomez. 

If approved, this proposal would cause the city to lose grant money, as the federal funding RTS receives from the government for transit-related projects is directly tied to the volume of bus riders, many of whom are UF staff or students.

“This system is an integral component of the city,” Harvey Ward said in the press release. “It’s good for the environment, it reduces traffic congestion and it has become an integral part of the way UF students come to learn about and love the City of Gainesville.”

These grants compose almost a third of the funding for RTS. 

At a press conference April 9, Ward shared his hopes of the city reaching an agreement with the university.

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“We’re not going to get to a place where this is a reality,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we’re going to come to a satisfying conclusion.” 

It is unsure if or when an agreement will be reached between the university and the city, but Ward said he is confident in the city’s ability to compromise.

“We’re all in this together and I’m confident we’ll find a solution,” he said. 

The Gainesville City Commission will have a special meeting at 3 p.m. April 11 to address the RTS budget.

Contact Kairi Lowery at klowery@alligator.org. Follow her on X @kairiloweryy.

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Kairi Lowery

Kairi Lowery is a second-year journalism major and a metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing you can find her lounging on the beach with a book or collecting vinyls. 


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