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ACC Commission Raises Bus Fare by 15 Cents

The fare increase package doesn't include a proposed 25 cent transfer fee.



Despite pleas from several citizens, the Athens Clarke County Commission voted Tuesday night to increase by 15 cents the fare for riding the Athens Transit bus and a fare increase for the Lift. The cost of a one-way ticket will, on July 1, 2014, rise to $1.75 for adult riders, $1 for senior citizens and disabled passengers and to $1.50 for youth.

"There's no one who depends on public transportation in this meeting," said Commissioner Kathy Hoard. "Any fare increase is painful." She said the Commission needs to do a better job of communicating with people who depend solely on the bus system to move around the community.

"I know there's no such thing as a free ride," said Commissioner George Maxwell. "But we don't want to make it so that people who need to ride the bus can't afford to ride the bus."

Mayoral candidate Tim Denson told the Commission that the fare increase would mean that a poorer family would be spending a significant part of their income on public transportation. He said the Commission should be reducing the fare, not increasing it, and that the increase will result in a drop in ridership.

By a 7 to 3 vote, the Commission approved a proposal from Commissioner Kelly Girtz that approved the staff-proposed 15-cent increase, eliminated a 25 cent transfer fee and called for an outside review of the bus system, talking with both users and non-users of the system. 

Girtz said the Commission is in "a new era, with federal funds dropping." Currently, the federal government contributes $1.8 million to the bus system, which is matched by general funds of $1.8 million and another $1.8 million from the fare box.

"We need to work from the 30,000 foot level," Girtz said. He said the local government needs to figure out how to entice more riders. There are all sorts of way to reach people, and "we need to tap into mechanisms to reach them." 

One of the issues he wants to know more about is why outlying apartment complexes are developing their own mini-transportation system, shuttling tenants back and forth to downtown. Such systems mean fewer riders for Athens Transit.

"I don't think [the proposal] is perfect, but it gives us the chance to have a comprehensive look at the system," Girtz said. When asked by Commissioner Maxwell who would look at the system, Girtz said perhaps some local agency could do it, like the Institute of Government. 

The cost of consulting will depend on the scope of the study.


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