Transit fares could go up

LAWRENCEVILLE - Increased bus fares and changes to some Gwinnett County routes will be the topics of a public hearing today.

The Transit Advisory Board is considering increasing local route fares from $1.75 to $2 and implementing a zoned fare system for Xpress bus riders in August. For those routes, fares that are currently $3 each way would range from $3 to $5 for commuters.

Jon Richards, chairman of the Gwinnett County Transit Advisory Board, said fares have remained constant since November of 2002. But with the county's tight budget in 2008, members of the board were trying to find ways to reduce the $5 million contribution Gwinnett makes toward its buses each year.

In Gwinnett, Richards said, the percentage of each passenger's fare that the county pays is higher than in other comparable systems.

The zoned fare system would cost commuters from Buford, Snellville and some Discover Mills riders more per trip, but Richards said the cost per mile would be just slightly more than the 14.2 cents Indian Trail riders are paying per mile for their trips.

The recommendation would also eliminate some reverse commute routes that Richards said are basically unused and alter the No. 50 and No. 40 routes to provide better connectivity.

The county commission voted Tuesday to purchase nine new buses, adding four to their fleet. Five buses are currently being borrowed from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. Richards said he expected the county commission to vote on these actions in March.

If the fare increase does pass, he said, there's a good chance that some riders will leave the system. But because many of the Xpress routes are standing-room only, Richards said there is a possibility that some riders who want to take the buses, but are unable to due to lack of capacity, will join the system.

The initial drop off may be minimized, too, when people used to riding buses go back to driving, he said.

"If they start driving and they see how much it costs them with $3 gas and the hassle to go down and back, it may still be worth it," Richards said. "We're hoping riders will stay with it, but who's to say?"

Comments on the proposal will be accepted until Feb. 15. The public meeting will be held at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center at 6:30 p.m.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Public meeting for possible transit changes

· When: 6:30 p.m.

· Where: Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville