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Changes on the way for Hall Area Transit

Red Rabbit service to reduce hours, increase fees for all

POSTED: July 23, 2012 11:28 p.m.

There are expected to be some winners and losers in the upcoming changes to Hall Area Transit.

The bus service, specifically the Red Rabbit fixed routes, is undergoing a series of alterations aimed largely at easing budget concerns.

Those changes include fare increases, a reduction in hours and some changes in routes.

Hall County residents and Red Rabbit riders got a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions at two public hearings on Monday ahead of the changes scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 1.

Fewer than 10 residents turned out to talk about them.

Gainesville resident Maryann Smith, who relies on Red Rabbit to get to her part-time, minimum-wage fast-food job, expects the change to create some hardships.

“This is really costing me a lot,” she said.

In addition to facing a fare increase from $1 to $1.25, Smith noted that Red Rabbit’s changes would eliminate free transfer tickets. Currently, riders get one transfer ticket per paid ride that allows them to use another bus to get to their destination without an additional charge. Under the new system, riders will have to pay each time they get on the bus unless they have an unlimited day or month pass.

Smith uses two different buses to get to her job, and the same when returning home. So transfer tickets have halved the cost of her trips.

All told, the changes would increase Smith’s daily fare from $2 to $5.

Describing a financial situation of living from paycheck to paycheck, that change could be difficult.

However, Community Service Director Phillippa Lewis Moss, whose department oversees Hall Area Transit, offered the introduction of a $3 day pass and a $40 monthly pass as a possible solution for Smith.

Other riders at the meeting didn’t seem too concerned about the fare changes, noting that it had been a while since fares were raised.

These changes for Red Rabbit riders came down after the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which shares responsibility for the Community Service Center with the city of Gainesville, requested increased fares to address budget concerns.

Since then Moss, Hall Area Transit General Manager Richard Ticehurst and other members of the transit system’s staff have been exploring solutions to reduce the budget or increase revenues without putting too much cost on riders.

Many riders, like Smith, are reliant on the bus service to give them access to jobs, doctor’s appointments and stores, but are not very financially flexible. Many don’t have cars or cannot drive.

Ultimately, a third-party firm, McDonald Area Transit, made recommendations on the amount for changes.

In addition to an increase from $1 to $1.25 for an adult, discounted rates for children, students, seniors and disabled riders also will increase.

Moss said Red Rabbit could bring in $25,000 more at the farebox. She listed that as a conservative estimate.

While many of the changes are budget-reducing measures, the bus service also introduced a new route, largely aimed to reach the new Hall County Government Center on Browns Bridge Road near the intersection with McEver Road.

That expansion turned into a benefit for Barbara Faulkner, who lives at Vineyards of McEver Apartments.

Before the expansion of Route 7 this month, Faulkner had to take a taxi five days a week to get to her job at a hotel on E.E. Butler Parkway. At a rate of $6 per cab ride each way, this expansion stands to save Faulkner nearly $50 per week.

Faulkner said when she first saw the Hall Area Transit sign outside her apartment complex advertising the new stop, she wasn’t sure it was right.

She called the number on the sign to verify.

“I thought I was in heaven,” she said. “I was so excited.”


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