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City Manager's Corner

Mar 05

[ARCHIVED] 2020 Census: City Transit story

The original item was published from March 2, 2020 4:49 PM to August 12, 2022 1:21 PM

Our Battle Creek Transit system provides public transportation to the community with fixed-route buses, the ADA and advance-scheduled Tele-Transit, and the on-demand weekend BCGo.


Our transit system is classified as “small urban,” since we have a population of 50,000-199,999. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!

The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including funding to operate community public transportation.

Our status as a “small urban” system places us in a Federal Transit Administration formula allocating us about $1.4 million that we use for operating expenses – staff and the services we mentioned above. This helps with our $4 million operating budget.

As part of this current distribution, we also receive a state reimbursement of 39 cents per dollar we spend on operations.

If our population drops below 50,000, we become a “rural” transit system. We no longer would receive federal funds directly, but would become one of at least 83 agencies across Michigan to share a pot of about $24 million.  We estimate this would provide us with $740,000 for operations – half of what we currently receive.

Because we would have to spend less on operations under that scenario, we would receive less state reimbursement, a double hit to our already-tight Transit budget. You may know that this year we are recommending to the City Commission the first bus fare increase in 17 years – moving from $1.25 per ride to $1.75. We don’t want to burden our riders, especially those who have limited income; we believe this increase will better keep our community riding, than if we were to cut service.

That being said, a drop in population – or undercount on the 2020 Census – that gives us “rural” status, could potentially mean cutting Tele-Transit to service only those passengers who are ADA-eligible – a small percentage of the current list of passengers who use this service for work, medical appointments, and much more.

If that did not cover the funding cut, we would look at cutting service hours, probably starting our services later in the morning, and ending them earlier in the evening. Right now, buses run weekdays 5:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and Tele-Transit runs 5:15 a.m. to midnight. They also have Saturday hours, and BCGo covers additional weekend hours.

Especially since our community lost taxi service last year, we know how critically important it is to continue providing – and improving – our Battle Creek Transit services. Please help us in that effort by completing the brief – just nine questions – Census survey this spring.

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Battle Creek Counts, and we are counting on you to help us stay 50K strong.

Tag(s): census, 2020 census