Capital Area Transit officials hope upcoming fare changes will help reduce confusion for travelers riding around the Triangle.
The Raleigh Transit Authority approved a new fare policy in May that will eliminate bus transfers, allow senior citizens and children to ride free and reduce some fare options. The move will more closely align CAT’s fare structure with buses from Triangle Transit and Durham.
The most substantial change will be the end of transfers, which allow riders to switch buses en route to their destinations without an extra charge. Those riders would typically pay only $1 for the initial boarding.
Transit Administrator David Eatman said those passengers must either buy a $2 day pass, which allows unlimited rides over 24 hours, or pay $1 as they board each bus. Because the day pass would pay for itself in two or more transfers, he said most riders won’t be affected.
“Well over 90 percent of our passengers won’t notice a change,” Eatman said. “It’s all going to wash out.”
But passenger Jessica McClain said that won’t be the case for her. As she waited for a bus with her two young children Wednesday, she explained she often transfers buses on one-way trips.
“Sometimes I’m going straight home and not coming back and I’m not going to benefit from having to pay $2 just to go one way,” she said.
McClain said she’s not willing to pay more without seeing some return on ride quality.
“The services aren’t getting any better. They’re not coming on time and it takes forever to get where you need to go,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.”
Eatman estimates eliminating transfers will save transit about $140,000 alone in the paper stock used to print the transfer tickets. That’s money slated to offset the cost of allowing children 12 and younger and seniors 65 years and older to ride free.
“We all know the importance of keeping senior mobility an option,” Eatman said. “When they’re able to keep their independence, it’s good for everybody.”
Overall, transit stands to save a net $104,000 with the new rate structure.
Nancy Bounkazi, who occasionally rides the bus around town, said she’s still worried about the effect the policy changes will have on the poor.
“I hope they’re doing it to help the public. But sometimes the things we try to do to help the public, we’re hurting them,” Bounkazi said. “You can take a dollar pass and almost ride all day if you know what you’re doing. You’d be surprised what people do when they don’t have a lot of money to make ends meet.”
The new day passes will also work on Durham buses, Eatman said, but not for the TTA. Riders would have to buy a separate TTA pass or a regional pass for $4, he said.
In August, the transit authority must evaluate one final piece of the new rate plan after the Raleigh City Council voted Wednesday to keep 11-ride ticket books. The books, sold at discounted rates to nonprofits, include 11 tickets for a one-way trip with a single transfer.
“It does impact agencies who just want to fund that one trip,” Eatman said. “That’s the piece we have to work out.”
The changes aren’t likely to go into effect until late September or early October — about 30 days after the transit authority meets.