With an unclear purpose and a lack of funding, the future of the Albany County Transportation Authority (ACTA) is up in the air, one ACTA board member said.
“We need to really assess what our purpose is — do we want to just keep running the Laramie Link route, or look at other routes,” ACTA board member Andi Summerville said. “Right now, ACTA wouldn’t be necessary if UW continues to run the Laramie Link.”
ACTA began operating the Gem City Grand bus line in 2011, but when the University of Wyoming added its own public transit, LaramieLink, along the same route, ACTA fell into a supportive role.
“The board officially shed all of its responsibilities when UW took over LaramieLink,” Summerville said. “Right now, ACTA is really focusing more on the long-term transportation needs of the community.”
The county board’s problems are compounded by a lack of members. At the board’s quarterly meeting in March, Summerville said the county will need to appoint new board members from the county, city and Interfaith-Good Samaritan.
ACTA board member Klaus Hanson said the county could think about adding a public transportation user to the board as well.
“The important issue is to continue ACTA,” Hanson said. “We don’t know how long UW is planning on continuing the one route we do have.”
Because Laramie’s population is less than 50,000, the city is not eligible for a metropolitan planning organization, which could help secure federal funding for public transit efforts, Summerville said.
“It is difficult to run a bus system outside of a (metropolitan planning organization) in Wyoming,” she said. “The grants we had before UW started LaramieLink weren’t enough to effectively run the bus line.”
Another topic scheduled for the March meeting is forming partnerships.
With budget cuts statewide, Summerville said forming partnerships with UW, Laramie County Community College and other outside agencies might be the only way to fund future transportation efforts.
“I think it’s been appropriate to put the conversation on hold, since everyone has had their budgets cut,” she said. “March will be a good time to pick it back up again.”
Hanson said ACTA also needs to expand the public transit route to areas south and west of the main route, which travels along Grand Avenue between Wal-Mart and downtown.
“If it doesn’t go to West Laramie, it’s really only a half measure,” he said. “But that is kind of a pipe dream, because again — no money.”
Neither Hanson nor Summerville were sure whether ACTA would continue as a board with the current lack of interest from partners and inability to secure sufficient funds from the state to operate a bus line, but both agreed the board was needed.
“There are members of the community who see public transportation as a vital service,” Summerville said. “We know that it’s used, and we know that it’s needed.”
A date has not yet been set for the March meeting, Summerville said.