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New Red Rabbit route drawing rider interest

Fare increases taking some time for riders to get used to

POSTED: August 15, 2012 11:59 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Hall Area Transit's Red Rabbit bus now makes a stop at the Hall County Government Center, which is part of a new route that has been popular with riders.

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Hall Area Transit’s Red Rabbit picked up 2,030 riders in July along its newest route, which travels along major roads on the west side of Gainesville.

That number, which is about 6 percent of the 36,039 total riders that month, “is decent given that there was no money budgeted to market the route and the actual brochures were not even ready for distribution until late July,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center.

The route, covering Memorial Park Drive and Browns Bridge and McEver roads, started in July, created at the request of the Hall County Board of Commissioners to serve the new Hall County Government Center at 2875 Browns Bridge Road.

The new route ranked seventh out of eight routes in terms of July 2-31 ridership, but Moss expects the number to increase over the next several months as more people become aware of the route.

“The biggest draw for riders on Route 7 seems to be the shopping and business sites along McEver and Dawsonville Highway,” she said.

Moss recalled one person saying at a July 23 public hearing on Red Rabbit changes that she expected the new route would save her $12 per day on cab fares.

One resident along the route, Barbara Faulkner, said in an earlier interview that she 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, the route expansion stood to save Faulkner nearly $50 per week.

She recalled celebrating the news when she first heard it. “I thought I was in heaven,” she said.

But other Red Rabbit changes have some passengers frowning.

The bus service increased fares as of Aug. 1 from $1 to $1.25 for adults, 50 cents to $1 for children and students, and 50 cents to 60 cents for seniors and disabled riders. Also, children age 6 and under ride free.

But perhaps more upsetting than the fare increase is the bus service’s elimination of free transfers, Moss said.

“When you look at many of our passengers, who are very, very low to moderate income, the lack of transfers and that small increase in fares really hits their pocketbook,” she said. “They really have to reprocess how to manage their weekly finances.”

Many riders, particularly those who didn’t attend the public hearings or who don’t keep up with the news, were surprised about the fare increases, Moss said.

In addition, Hall Area Transit has shortened operating hours.

Red Rabbit employees are still working through getting riders adjusted to the changes, Moss said.

“I think we’ll all be on the same page in about a month from now,” she said.

Hall Area Transit has received “significantly more requests” from residents who would like to see public transit in South Hall.

But given financial constraints, “I’m not sure when we can serve that particular area,” Moss said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee.

“Interestingly enough, many of those comments are coming from the (Village at) Deaton Creek area,” Moss said at Tuesday’s meeting of the committee.

Village at Deaton Creek is an “active adult community” that targets retirees and those 55 and older.


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