By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Frequent riders of the
Charlottesville Transit Service
(CTS) currently have the option of paying 75 cents each time they board, or buying a book of 40 tickets for $21. While there are discounted fares are available for senior citizens and the disabled, there are currently no monthly or yearly passes.
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On June 15, 2009, CTS Director Bill Watterson appeared before Council for permission to eliminate the ticket books in favor of a monthly pass that would cost $20, with a discounted price of $10 for those who qualify. He said doing so would increase ridership by making it easier for people to board a CTS bus. This year, ridership will approach 2 million according to Watterson. As of the end of May, over 1.8 million people rode CTS buses in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2009. That compares to 1.7 million for all of the previous year.
He gives the credit for that milestone to the ability of University of Virginia students, faculty and staff to ride fare-free.
“[The University does] pay us, but we don’t collect at the fare-box and that makes a difference in terms of ridership,” Watterson said. UVA provided $134,000 for this year, and will raise the contribution to $138,000 for FY2010.
“We want to use what we’ve been learning to do even better in the future. And one of the things that we’ve learned is that when you set up an arrangement where people don’t have to think about paying… they’ll ride more.”
For riders paying on a day by day basis, Watterson also suggested eliminating the transfer slips in favor a daily pass. Currently, anyone who switches bus lines to get to their destination must ask the driver for a transfer slip to show they have already paid to board the bus that day. Watterson suggested reducing the cost of a daily pass in half to $1.50, which would effectively be the cost of a round trip.
asked if a yearly pass would be possible. Watterson said the market for such a pass would be “fairly limited” because many people wouldn’t want to spend around $240 all at once.
“We are a fairly transient community, and many of the folks that might be interested in something like that are already getting a fare-free arrangement through the University of Virginia,” Watterson said. He said he would be happy to experiment with a yearly pass once the monthly pass is implemented.
asked if the monthly pass would be an ID card, or if would be something that would be read at the fare box. Watterson said CTS lacks the technology to allow for swiping a card, but that it may implement such a system in the future.
“The reason we don’t have smart fare boxes is because we’ve been using fairly low tech ways of selling our service and this might be an entrée into the future,” Watterson said.
Council voted 4-0 to support the change. The fare changes will go into effect on August 22, 2009.