LAWRENCEVILLE - Catching a bus downtown will cost some local commuters more than they expected.
Fares for both local and express buses will go up in August. Local bus fares will increase from $1.75 to $2, while monthly express passes will go from $100 to $150 for some riders.
The increase in express fares is $20 higher per month than the Gwinnett Transit Advisory Board recommended in March. The board made no suggestion regarding an increase in local fares.
County Transportation Director Brian Allen said the increases will save the county between $548,000 and $573,000 a year. Gwinnett currently subsidizes the bus systems at a rate of $3.25 a ride for its 666,000 express passengers and $1.60 per trip for 1.34 million local riders.
This is the first time fares have been increased in six years, Allen said, but he expects they will be reconsidered annually from this point forward.
"I don't think anybody needs to assume the issue is over at this time," he said.
The express fare increase will also apply to cash fares and 10-ride tickets. For passengers on routes 101, 103, 412 and 418, one-way fares will be $4 and 10-ride passes will cost $40, in addition to the $150 rate for monthly passes. Riders on routes 102 and 410 will pay $3 for one-way fares, $30 for 10-ride passes and $100 for monthly passes.
Allen said about 30 percent of the cost of the bus service will be recovered from the fare box.
County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, an outspoken opponent of transit, said he was pleased the county's contribution to the bus systems was cut by about 10 percent. He said because gas prices are high and people like not having to pay for parking downtown, he doesn't expect many people to leave the service.
"It's a matter of convenience. I expect they'll pay a little bit more," he said. "We're asking folks to pay their fair share."
Shannon Whitworth, who rides the express bus from Snellville, said she and other riders were very disappointed with the changes. A number of riders are already beginning to plan carpools or find alternate bus routes from other cities, she said.
The increase is less than an initial proposal, which would have raised monthly passes to $190 for riders on the longest routes.
Jon Richards, the chairman of the advisory board, said the group is also studying selling advertising on buses to help reduce the amount the county spends on the system.
"Nobody likes a fare increase," he said. "It goes a long way toward saving money."
Additional changes on the transit system include altering local routes 40 and 50 and reverse commute routes 101A, 102A and 103A, which have few passengers, and eliminating free fares for children five years old or younger, instead letting children who are less than 42 inches tall ride free. Those changes will go into effect June 2.