Cary Town Council votes to raise bus fares

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 14, 2013 

The Cary Town Council voted Thursday to increase fare hikes for the C-Tran public transportation system.

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

  • C-Tran fare hikes

    • Single-ride fares will increase from $1 to $1.25 in 2014 and rise to $1.50 in 2015.

    • Seniors over the age of 65 will pay 60 cents in 2014 and 75 cents the following year. Now they ride for free.

    • For door-to-door rides within three-quarters of a mile of fixed routes, fares will increase from $2 to $2.50 in 2014 and jump to $3 in 2015.

    • Door-to-door rides anywhere within town limits between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. will rise from $1 to $3 in 2014, then to $4 in 2015.

    • Trips to Raleigh – which are only offered to seniors and disabled residents – will increase in 2014 from $6 to $7, plus an additional dollar for each additional five miles. Trips to Durham will increase to $8, while trips to Chapel Hill will go up to $9.

— Soon, everyone will pay a bit more to ride Cary’s C-Tran public transportation system.

The Cary Town Council voted unanimously Oct. 10 to increase bus fares.

Single-ride fares will increase from $1 to $1.25 in 2014 and rise to $1.50 in 2015. Instead of riding for free, those over 65 will pay 60 cents in 2014 and 75 cents the following year.

The fares for door-to-door rides and out-of-town trips for seniors and the disabled will also increase.

The decision to approve the fare hikes came after months in which Cary town staff solicited comments from riders during a series of public meetings. More than 150 people weighed in.

On Thursday, some public transportation users pleaded with the council to maintain the current fares.

“It’s not right, and it’s not Cary,” said Ginny Lou Laughlin, a legally blind Raleigh resident who uses the bus system to commute to Cary to do volunteer work.

Blake Scott of Cary said he uses C-Tran’s door-to-door service to get to his job at Whole Foods Market.

“I need this to be affordable to keep my job,” he said. “I hope you won’t increase this by too much.”

Town staff estimate the fare increases will bring in $90,291 in additional revenues in 2014 and an additional $118,657 in 2015.

C-Tran could continue operating at its current level without fare increases, said Ray Boylston, transit services administrator for the town. But he said fares cover only 9 percent of the service’s cost, which is less than the national average.

This is the town’s first increase of door-to-door fares in five years, and the first increase on fixed routes in eight years.

The C-Tran service has gained in popularity over the years: Ridership has tripled since 2007.

Council members said they struggled with the idea of raising rates but that they didn’t want to continue subsidizing the service at the same rate.

“If we don’t increase the fare, every year that goes by we’ll be getting further and further in the hole,” said Councilman Don Frantz.

An incremental fare increase would give riders “time to adjust their budgets,” he said.

“It’s not an easy vote … but we can’t pull money out of the air,” said Councilman Ed Yerha.

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith said the Center for Volunteer Caregiving offers free transportation services.

“The ones that can’t afford it, I’m hoping we can assist them some other way,” Weinbrecht said.

Despite reassurances, Laughlin said she was disappointed in the council’s vote. She said effects of a fare increase on disabled riders far outweigh the effects on the town of keeping the rates steady.

Cary expects to collect about $60,000 in additional revenues from door-to-door passengers by 2015.

Laughlin wondered how much that additional money will really matter to Cary.

“Basically nothing,” she said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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