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Route, fare changes coming to Gainesville bus system
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Gainesville is extending hours for its public transit system, altering some routes and reinstating transfer fees as part of changes to increase ridership and revenues.

In August 2012, bus fares for adult riders were increased to $1.25 from $1, but that resulted in a 35 percent reduction in ridership and a 17 percent loss in revenue.

In October 2013, the adult fare fell back to $1 while elderly and disabled riders were allowed to use the bus service for free.

That change increased ridership 23 percent.

Officials report that Gainesville Connection ridership has stabilized at about 12,300 passengers each month.

City officials have now agreed to set the base fare for adults at $1 and for seniors (riders 60 and older) at 50 cents. Changes are set to take effect in the spring.

Transfer charges will be reinstated at a cost of 25 cents while reducing the day pass to $2 from $3. A monthly pass will fall to $30 from $40.

Nearly 30 percent of riders are unemployed, and 56 percent of passengers earn less than $15,000 a year. View ridership demographics on race, age and gender.

Meanwhile, routes, and the number designations given to each, are being modified to enhance ridership.

For example, a newly designed route along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Barn Street will serve the eastside of the city.

Route 3, which will be called route 20, will undergo a minor change to better serve the Brenau University campus and its students and faculty.

In conjunction with this route, minor changes will be made to route 5b (which will be called route 41) to better connect the university with the Brenau Downtown Center.

Officials agreed to extend service to Gainesville High School to serve students involved in extracurricular programs.

Ashley Bell, a Gainesville attorney and former Hall County commissioner, said this could encourage students to get involved in after-school programs.

According to school officials, better than 80 percent of freshmen and seniors said they would benefit from having public transit serve Gainesville High. The bus currently stops near but not at the school.

Bell said he would lobby the school board to cover the fares for students.

Route 2 will be eliminated; it runs past the Brenau Downtown Center, Gainesville Police Department, Community Service Center, Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, Lanier Medical Park and Gainesville Middle School.

Officials said lack of ridership warranted its cancellation, and that cutting out this route will generate about $35,000 in savings annually.

Hours of operation will be extended for the remaining routes to 12 hours a day Monday through Friday from 6:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

All buses will depart the transfer hub at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour and half-hour.

Officials said this matches with industry standards and better serves riders going to and from work.

Officials said these changes could increase ridership between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center Director Phillippa Lewis Moss said she would report back to city officials after the route and fare changes are implemented.

Adding Saturday routes could be the next change to come.

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