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Passengers happy with new Red Rabbit service

Transit overhaul lowers fares, increases service hours

POSTED: November 21, 2013 12:18 a.m.

Rhett Lamar Conner waited for the Red Rabbit bus Wednesday afternoon at a new bus stop near Brenau University.

The fixed-route bus system that’s housed in the Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center under Hall Area Transit has simplified fares, increased service hours and added several new bus stops to existing routes.

The changes took effect nearly two months ago, but there’s already a rise in riders and increased efficiency, with no loss in revenue.

Passengers said they like the course the bus service is taking, which is basically reversing mandates from Hall County in fiscal year 2013 that raised rates and reduced hours of operation.

Fares went down from $1.25 to $1, simplifying rates for both passengers and the transit administration.

Rides are free for seniors ages 60 and older, children aged 7 and younger and the disabled.

Those eligible can get a $3 identification card good for two years if they register with the transit office.

Conner flashes the card with his picture at the bus driver as he climbs onto the bus, using his wooden cane as support.

The location was just moved to the other side of the street, but that’s one less road to cross for the 72-year-old resident.

He rides the bus everyday to grocery stores, pharmacies and to do other errands.

“(The card) goes until 2015,” Conner said. “I couldn’t afford to turn that down.”

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the community service center, said Hall County’s attempt to cut costs and increase revenue didn’t work.

The fixed-route system brought in the same amount of revenue this October as it did for the same month last year when the fare was 25 cents more.

Saving a quarter on a bus trip helps passenger Nicholas McGinn eat more Little Debbie snacks.

He works for Gainesville Marble and Granite, and taking the bus frees him from a long walk home.

“The Red Rabbit is really good to me because it saves me an hour a day worth of walking distance,” McGinn said. “Just for a dollar, you can’t beat it.”

Passenger Clyde Herman Smith is a senior citizen and disabled. He also has a free fare card and says he’d have to spend around $20 if he had to take a taxi.

“I’m thankful to God, you know, that we have the Red Rabbit,” he said.

When the fares increased in August 2012, the ridership was 16,443. The following August the ridership dropped to 12,649, figures from the community service center show.

“(Ridership) is starting to level out, and hopefully over the next few months will increase,” Moss said. “So we’re definitely seeing, just in that 30 days, that the trend has shifted.”

Gainesville took over full financial responsibility for the Red Rabbit bus system July 1, which is the start of the 2014 fiscal year.

Hall took full financial responsibility for the reservation bus system Dial-A-Ride that serves more people in the county.

Previously both local governments split the costs of both systems. The Federal Transit Administration pays half of the operating cost for Red Rabbit, and the city pays the other 50 percent.

Hours of operation have been extended from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the week to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The service doesn’t run on weekends.

The buses now stop at several popular locations for residents, including the Goodwill store in Oakwood, The Good News at Noon shelter on Davis Street in Gainesville and Avita Community Partners off Mabry Road.


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