Fare increases for Macon County Transit were approved by commissioners during last week's meeting. While County Commissioner Ronnie Beale opposed the rate increases, the new fares passed in a 4-1 vote.
Macon County Transit Director Kim Angel brought the rate increases before the board and explained that her request was based on changes in operational costs. “The reason we ask for fares and cost share are to meet match requirements on grants, and when grant money runs out, the money we collect from passengers keeps the system running," said Angel. "We’ve had some increase in costs from gas prices and things over the last few years.”
The county transit provides a vital service to members of the Franklin, Highlands and Nantahala communities. Each locale has separate rate fees. Angel's request to the board stated that based on previous years' operating costs and projected current year operating costs combined with the fact that rates have not been increased since 2010, it is necessary to increase fare rates and cost share rates for transit services for the program to continue to be self-sustaining.
While rates were basically increased across the board, rates for passengers in the Nantahala area saw the largest increase, which is why Beale voted against the proposal. "This is a part of the public that depend on this service and those are the ones you’re going to hurt the most, by this much of an increase all at once,” Beale said.
Some Nantahala residents will see as much as $15 for certain trips through the transit service. Angel noted that there are subsidiary programs available for the elderly and disabled to assist with transit fees and the proposed rates only apply to those who are not eligible for those programs.
"I just think it is too much to ask the folks in Nantahala to pay all at once," said Beale.
Angel explained that cost share rates and fares are determined based on a per mile rate formed in a cost allocation model that is multiplied by an estimated number of miles for a round trip service to a specific destination such as Asheville. Then, Angel and her department took that cost and multiplied it by 15 percent to determine the cost share/fare for the elderly and disabled and by 20 percent to determine the fare for the general public. The remaining balance of the cost is billed using grant or local funds.
So far in 2013, the trips made by Macon County Transit have increased by 3,000 compared to last year when the transit was used for 38,000 trips and 300,000 miles.
The new rates will go into effect in October of this year.