Central Ohio Transit Authority Votes To Raise Fares
Central Ohio Transit Authority riders can expect to pay more for a bus ride after the first of the year. COTA officials say the fare increases are overdue. WOSU reports some COTA riders wonder where they'll get the extra cash for the more expensive tickets.
A COTA bus idles in front of the Statehouse on North High Street as riders enter and exit. COTA rider Cynthia Gowdy sits nearby - the hood on her sweatshirt is pulled up and her arms are crossed. She's just been told about the looming fare increases.
Gowdy's from the city's West Side. She has a local pass that lets her ride all she wants for $45 dollars a month. Come January it's going up to $55.
"Some of us don't even really work full-time. We work part-time, a couple days a week. And we have to have a way to work. So we have no choice but to take the bus. But how are we going to maintain, other than riding the bus, how are we going to maintain where we live at? So, yeah, I think that's a lot," Gowdy said.
For customers who make a single trip on the bus the fare will go from $1.50 to a $1.75. A monthly express pass will cost $76 - a 22 percent increase. COTA's president and CEO Bill Lhota said the fare increase is overdue. He said the plan is to have one every three years. But the last one, due in January of this year, Lhota said was deferred because of the poor economy.
"It made a period of four years since our last fare increase," he said.
Some economists say the U.S. is emerging from recession. But Vernice Reynolds is among many who still struggle.
"(If you have a monthly pass for an adult, it's $45. It's going to go up to $55.) Ooh! For real? Girl that's going to kill me! I'm trying to be in school. I can't afford that.What is the purpose of increasing the fare? What kind of service are we going to get?" Reynolds questioned.
Lhota said part of the fare increase is to help maintain equity between customers who pay to ride and taxpayers who help subsidize the service. He said ideally riders pay 20 percent of the cost while taxpayers foot the rest. Lhota said recently riders' share has fallen to about 17 percent.
"We're not going to reach quite the 20 percent but we're going to come closer to it," Lhota said.
The increases are expected to generate about $2.1 million in additional revenue each year. And he said those funds also will go toward adding more bus routes.
"We are expanding all of our services. We are adding later service in the evening both in the weekday, on Saturday and Sunday. We are continuing to add more service on existing routes. We are continuing to expand existing routes further out into the community. And we are establishing completely new routes," he said.
Lhota expects the increase to slightly affect ridership. But he thinks the higher fares and expanded routes reaching more potential riders will offset lost customers.