The Greensboro City Council is peculiarly susceptible to following through on ideas expressed by speakers at its monthly town hall-type meeting.
A new panhandling ordinance was the result of demands made by speakers from the floor. The new city mental health department was advocated by speakers from the floor, as was the new Cure Violence program.
A bus fare increase was nixed by the City Council after speakers complained about it.
Now speakers are advocating that all Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA) bus service, including the SCAT paratransit service, be provided free of charge. A speaker on Tuesday, Feb. 4 added a hook that has proven to be successful with the Greensboro City Council: Other cities do it, so why can’t Greensboro?
A bus fare increase had been recommended by the GTA board and was included in the manager’s recommended 2019-2020 budget but was removed by the City Council from the final budget. The last fare increase was in 2012.
The current bus fare of $1.50 pays far less than half the cost of a ride, which according to the budget costs the city $4.22 per passenger. But the SCAT paratransit service is what has been eating into the budget. SCAT riders also pay $1.50 and the cost to the city is about $33 per ride.
The city also had problems about 15 years ago when SCAT riders could buy a monthly pass for $35 and then ride as often as they wanted. Some SCAT riders were averaging nearly 100 rides a month and the City Council ended that program.
The cost to the city to eliminate fares would be about $3.5 million if eliminating fares didn’t increase ridership. If eliminating fares resulted in an increase in ridership then the cost to the city would be more.
But don’t be surprised if the City Council in the near future starts discussing going to free public transportation. If it is handled like other new initiatives by the current City Council, it will be mentioned several times at meetings, the city staff will be asked to look into it and then without a work session or a discussion at a public meeting the votes will be lined up and a motion will be passed to implement the new program.