New electric city buses will be on the streets of Greensboro later this month.
The City Council is united in support of the electric busses, but it has some critical decisions to make about the future of public transportation in Greensboro.
Greensboro Director of Transportation Adam Fischer in December gave the City Council a lengthy presentation on the current state of the public transportation system, with a suggestion that the City Council consider increasing sales tax to pay for suggested enhancements to the city bus system.
City Councilmember Justin Outling said the whole state of public transportation raised some tough questions. Ridership across the country is going down. Fischer said there appeared to be two separate causes to the nationwide decrease in public transportation usage. One is the improved economy which means more people have the money for private transportation. The other is the rapid increase in the usage of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft which are generally more expensive than public transportation, but provide door to door service and are cheaper than taxis.
Outling said, “My sense is that we would like for our transportation system to be more robust, but at what cost.”
He said the fact that ridership has been decreasing not just in Greensboro, but across the country added another variable. He questioned the wisdom of spending more money for fewer riders. Outling also noted Greensboro’s system stacked up really well when compared to similar sized cities in the state.
Outling said that he was always hesitant to increase taxes and without a clear plan of what the increase spending would do, he couldn’t imagine the City Council supporting a tax increase for public transportation.
Fares pay for about a quarter of the cost of running the fixed route system and Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said that the city may have to consider increasing the fares.