Fares increase on some Transit routes

LAWRENCEVILLE - Fare increases took effect Friday on some Gwinnett County Transit buses and despite the bump in price, Georgia's Regional Transportation Authority said customers still save money riding the bus as opposed to riding solo in a car.

"Xpress riders in Gwinnett can save $148 a month and $1,774 a year," said GRTA spokesman William Mecke. "If they can live with one less car in the household and use Xpress instead, they can save $614 a month and $7,368 a year."

Mecke said the savings were calculated using formulas provided by the American Public Transportation Association and the July 31 average cost of a gallon of gasoline in metro Atlanta - $3.87. Mecke also said total boardings on the 410, 412 and 418 Xpress bus routes had increased significantly during the last year. He said when compared with June 2007, through June 2008 boardings on the 410 had nearly doubled, were up nearly 70 percent on the 412 and had more than doubled on the 418. Mecke said the increased ridership wasn't just a Gwinnett phenomena either.

"It's happening all over the region," he said. "The buses are pretty full."

Sometimes too full maybe.

One daily rider on the 418 bus, who didn't want to be identified for fear of losing her job, said the monthly price increase from $100 to $150 isn't justified because sometimes people have to stand the entire trip home. She said given the new prices, she's trying to get into a vanpool.

Another rider of Gwinnett County Transit's 103 bus, which comes and goes from Discover Mills Mall, said she too was concerned about the price increase and the number of available buses. The woman, who also did not wish to be identified, said she often has to wait in the morning for another bus because the coach she arrives to is already full.

Mecke said GRTA has ordered 28 additional coach buses and that they should start arriving in late November. He acknowledged high gasoline prices are affecting everyone.

"We know it will be a tough fall for some people," he said. "We're doing just about everything we can."

Phil Boyd of Gwinnett County Transit said fares had been stable since November 2002 and that they increased because the transit department's "fare box revenue" had decreased to around 25 percent. Boyd said that figure needs to be around 30 percent to pay for services. He said the remainder of transit's funding comes from local, state and federal assistance. He attributed the increased fares to rising gas prices and labor costs. He also acknowledged that more and more people are asking him about additional services and new services.

"We're going to try and get more buses within the year," he said.