BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - WAVE Route 204, known as the Brunswick Connector, is the only fixed route the transit system provides that reaches into Brunswick County.
The route costs roughly $338,000 per year to operate, and it has an operating deficit of more than $49,000.
A portion of the funding for the route comes from the combined forces of Leland, Brunswick County and Navassa — but not for long.
On Monday, the town of Leland voted to withdraw its funding from WAVE, which for the coming year was expected to be $54,636.
Town Council Member Pat Batleman said the decision was not made lightly, because they recognize some people utilize the route to get to work, but that the level of ridership compared to the amount the town was paying did not add up.
“We really only have about 200 or so dedicated riders, and that’s not an awful lot of ridership for that amount of money,” she said, referencing numbers the town received from TransPro, the consulting firm hired to evaluate WAVE’s financial future.
According to records from WAVE Director Albert Eby, ridership on the route fluctuates between 1,200 and 1,800 riders monthly, and according to calculations done by Leland town staff, the cost equates to a little more than $14 per rider to run the route.
Without Leland’s funding, the route may shut down by the end of the summer.
In an email, Eby asked Brunswick County and Navassa leaders if they would be interested in absorbing the $54,636 in order to save the Brunswick Connector route.
A spokesperson for Brunswick County said the issue would have to go before the county commission, and so far it is not on any agenda.
If the funding is not secured, Eby indicated in the email the process to cut the route would begin at the end of the month, with the route going offline by Aug. 28.
Eby said he did not want to comment on the matter until the two entities had made a decision.
Budget issues are not unfamiliar to WAVE, with the system’s cash flow leading to service reductions and the dissolution of the Cape Fear Public Transit Authority earlier this year.
WAVE transit recently received some good budgetary news in the form of nearly $7 million from the CARES Act out of Washington, which should offset some of the cashflow issues.
Eby is expected to present the budget to the new WAVE board on May 28.
Batleman said when the council determined it was going to pull funding from WAVE, it decided to begin looking into the possibility of running its own transit system focused on the growing area.
“We wanted to take a look and see what our goals are, as far as transportation is concerned, going into the future,” she said.
She said if the city were to create its own system, they would look for ways to make sure people are able to get across the Cape Fear River, as many riders of the current Brunswick Connector utilize it for that purpose.