Retailers are being urged to chip in to help cash-strapped transport chiefs cover the cost of bus services.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive currently spends £7.8 million a year on subsidised services.
The funding pays for journeys such as the FreeBee, city and town centre buses in Sheffield and Rotherham, and dozens of rural, evening and weekend services.
Almost 16 per cent of all services across the county are subsidised because they have a social need but would not make a profit for a private operator.
David Young, the PTE’s deputy interim director general, said: “These are hard times and they call for creative measures.
“We have made big cuts to our budgets over the past few years and have lost significant numbers of staff.
“But while we have tried to limit the effect on public transport users we have reached a point where further cuts are likely to hit services.
“The last thing we want to do is cut bus services and so we are asking shops and supermarkets in some areas to dig deep and support the services which run to their shops and help keep their tills ringing.”
South Yorkshire PTE, which has an £84.4 million annual budget at present, is facing further reductions as public spending cuts continue.
It warns some services may start to be cut ‘in the coming months’.
The organisation has written to owners of major shopping sites and supermarkets - and will also accept contributions from smaller retailers.
Coun Mick Jameson, chairman of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, which oversees the PTE, added: “We hope retailers rise to the challenge and contribute to the funding of local bus services, recognising that for years we have helped customers get to their stores.”
Last year, SYPTE made more than £6.2 million of budget cuts and shed 60 jobs – 16 per cent of its staff.