UF proposes 25% cut to Gainesville transit budget, city rebuffs plan 

Gainesville will replace 12 buses in its 132-bus Regional Transit System fleet and add an Eastside transfer station with the $10.6 million grant it received from the Federal Transit Administration.

City of Gainesville officials dismissed a plan proposed by UF in March to halve its payment for bus services provided by RTS.  

At a Monday news conference, Mayor Harvey Ward said he doesn’t think the plan will continue and hopes this is just a late start to negotiations. However, he also laid out the impacts if UF decides to cut payments as the three-year contract between the city and university ends in June.  

Gainesville estimates that 11 of its 39 routes could get cut if the contract with UF ends. Ward noted that the impact would be felt by students and staff trying to get to campus, city residents who use RTS to go to work, and commuters who would face more traffic.  

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“I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to come to a satisfying conclusion for all the people who live in our community—sooner than later,” Ward said at the Monday conference. 

UF pays just over $14 million—totaling 49%—of the 2024 RTS budget and accounts for 68% of the ridership, according to the city. UF uses a student fee designed for transportation to cover the costs, but the university said increasing costs and stagnant fees have made the relationship unsustainable. 

RTS Income Breakdown 

  • Total: $28,578,237 
  • UF: 49.4% 
  • Grants: 28.7% 
  • Local gas tax: 8.2% 
  • Alachua County: 6.5% 
  • Santa Fe College: 2.9% 
  • Advertising: 2% 
  • City general fund: 1.5% 
  • Bus fares: 1.1% 

A draft UF proposal would start a month-by-month contract with payments of $570,000. The proposal says the monthly contracts would stay in place until other travel solutions are implemented or a technology solution can better collect ridership data. 

Ward and city officials say the university is getting a good deal, highlighting that UF accounts for 68% of rides but only 48% of costs. UF’s proposed contract would lower the university’s cost portion to 25%.  

“To compensate, RTS would be forced to eliminate a number of buses and routes which, in turn, would bring about a corresponding decrease in the number of students riding the buses — an outcome that opens the door to additional financial repercussions,” the city said in a release. 

The additional financial repercussions would include reduced state and federal funding for RTS. The grants provided for RTS take ridership into account. If UF cuts funding and Gainesville cuts bus routes, ridership would decrease, resulting in less grant funding.  

Steve Orlando, UF’s associate vice president for communications, said the city has misunderstood the university’s position. He said UF believed it was still negotiating with the city in good faith.

“We were surprised to learn about this press conference, because we recently asked the city to give us transparent data on their operating costs,” Orlando said in a statement. “We’re still working in good faith. This is unfortunate, but we agree with the mayor that a good outcome is possible, and we hope they share their data and come back to constructive talks as partners. We’re committed to doing what’s right for our students and the community.”

Ward said UF and the city will be able to negotiate a good result without cutting services. However, he said the city wanted to release the information and possible consequences to be transparent and make all stakeholders aware of the negotiations.  

The city also points to a UF study done by outside consultants. The study found RTS’s cost per service-hour cheaper than other peer systems.  

“To this end, it is unlikely that insourcing the operations or switching to another third-party operator would yield substantial savings for UF,” the study said. 

UF lists several next steps if the month-by-month option moved forward. These include continued ridership studies, analyzing how the changes impact routes and transit, including UF Health in future RTS contracts, and understanding other transit options like e-bikes and scooters.  

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the statement from Steve Orlando.

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need to bring that 2% in advertising revenue way up.


I’m with U of F on this. Just based on observing what goes on with City Government and how U of F operates.

I have zero confidence in City to have a fact based negotiation on anything. Slogans and posturing are tactics of Gville. Just look at the UF power plant discussion a few years ago

markus alexander

Over the recent years there’s been a big shift in student population – thousands more are moving to the new complexes within walking distance to campus. UF can sit back and watch the private sector build its dorms just a few blocks from campus. Students living that close don’t need to ride buses. The places those students used to live will turn into workforce housing, with greatly reduced bus service to those areas. Just where people need it the most, it won’t be available. One thing UF should be doing is increasing the amount it provides to RTS for UF STAFF to ride buses to campus. Bus service in areas not dominated by students has been mediocre at best for years. If UF truly cared about its carbon impact, it would be shifting funds to increase bus service available to staff. Another thing is that the city, for the past 20 years has been content to brag about how great RTS is, when a large chunk of the funding for the system was coming from UF. The city – and the county – should have also been steadily increasing support for RTS over these years, but now we find ourselves in a position where the threatened loss of UF funding will decimate the system and the city is in no position financially to put another dime into transit or anything else. There are a lot of things that got us to this point but you can’t blame UF for wanting to reduce funding if the student ridership isn’t what it once was.