November 28, 2006
As the city of Augusta faces budget cuts, the bus service is right in the crosshairs. The latest plan includes higher fares and longer waits for many riders.
A public hearing was held today at May Park Community Center concerning the changes.
For the first time in five years, the Augusta transit system is talking about raising the fares to generate more money for the system. But some say it'll only end up costing them more in the end when people stop riding the bus all together.
The city is asking the transit department for $731,443 in budget cuts.
"Initially we proposed to get rid of Saturday service. That would've hurt us a lot, and we'll lose ridership," transit planner Juriah Lewis told News 12.
After public outcry, the department revised its proposal to keep Saturday service and instead raise fees.
Under the new proposal, they'd eliminate a 35 cent transfer fee and instead charge everyone $1 every time you get on the bus.
The way the transit system is set up, every rider has to make at least one transfer to get to their destination. Right now, you're paying $1 to get on and another 35 cents to transfer. Round trip, that brings you to $2.70.
Under the new proposal, that same round trip will cost you $4.00.
Denise Lawson and her three kids have been riding the bus for seven years. Now, instead of paying $10.80 round trip to get to the store, it'll now cost her $16, if the proposal passes. That's extra money she says she doesn't have.
"That's too much money," she said. "You don't even have to put that in your gas tank."
Morgan Rose rides the bus every day. He says he doesn't mind the increase: "That doesn't bother me. That 65 cents doesn't bother me. But I could see where for some people it'd be like double the price."
The transit department estimates the increase will bring in another $100,000 of revenue.
The other $400,000 they expect to save will come from cutting down the frequency of buses.
It's a move the transit department admits will cut them off at the knees.
"We don't want to do this," Lewis said. "It's going to hurt ridership in the most painful way."
So now instead of waiting 30 minutes, riders will expect to wait an hour if they ride either the Augusta Mall, Washington Road or East Augusta routes. The downtown shuttle would be eliminated altogether and the Turpin Hill and Southgate Plaza routes would be combined.
Also, while the transit department's initial news release didn't mention anything about the disabled being affected, at the meeting it was announced that under the new proposal, disabled persons would have to pay twice the regular fare.