Capital Area Transit riders say fare hike would hurt poor

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

— Some Capital Area Transit riders aren’t happy about a proposed bus fare hike they say could break the bank for Raleigh’s poorest residents.

The fare for in-town trips, which has not changed since 2007, would rise to $1.25 in 2014 and $1.50 in 2016. Day passes would increase from $2 to $2.50. And the bus system would eliminate free rides for older adults age 65 and up, instead charging them a half-price fare.

The free senior citizen rides have been offered since 2010. Barbara Jacobs, 82, spoke out against the hike at a public hearing Monday night.

“Please think of your own mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles,” she told the Raleigh Transit Authority board, “and consider what they need, and don’t make us pay for riding the bus. I’m sure that I’m not the only person trying to survive on Social Security.”

Jacobs said free bus service is a great incentive for seniors to give up driving and make streets safer.

“We seniors don’t need to be fighting Raleigh traffic, we should be on the buses,” she said.

Jacobs added that she goes shopping on the bus several times away, buying a few groceries at a time. That could change if she begins paying for each ride. “We’re going to have to cut that trip to two or three weeks and bring back a ton of stuff on the bus,” she said.

Transit administrator David Eatman said the fare change is needed to address rising costs of fuel, maintenance and employee salaries. He said the bus system plans to address the fare’s impact by offering discounts to nonprofits and others who buy passes and fare cards in bulk. CAT’s five-day pass would become a seven-day pass, better enabling weekend riders.

Southeast Raleigh activist Octavia Rainey said the fair hike is unfair because the city spends $800,000 a year to operate the free R-Line service downtown.

“It appears to me that the city is getting ready to exclude the poorest of the poor who need to go to work, who need to go to the doctor’s office,” Rainey said, adding that many riders earn minimum wage, which hasn’t be raised in years. “Do not impose a hardship on the least of us.”

CAT rider Roland French Jr. told the board that he’s disabled and uses the bus to go to social services appointments and a food pantry. He said a higher fare “would constitute abuse.”

“I would not be able to receive essential services,” he added.

The proposed fare hike could go before the Raleigh City Council as soon as next month. If approved, the hike would take effect no sooner that August.

Triangle Transit is also raising fares on its buses. The $2 regional fare, unchanged since 2005, would rise to $2.25 in 2014 and $2.50 in 2015. The express bus fare, now $2.50, would rise to $3 in 2014 and $3.50 in 2015.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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