Things became heated between representatives of Greensboro’s Transit Authority (GTA) and some members of City Council on Tuesday night over the cost of maintaining the service.
The discussion began during the public comment portion of the meeting. Greensboro resident Lonnie Cunningham urged Council to consider a bond referendum to continue to subsidize the cost of bus fares at the current rate.
Cunningham suggested that one way to pay for the bus system would be to have a youth group collect all the campaign signs left around the City and send a bill to the candidates.
Cunningham also pointed out that buses in Chapel Hill are free.
“Chapel Hill has free buses because UNC subsidizes it,” Mayor Vaughan responded. Council members chimed in to say that the City does take public transportation seriously and that they already heavily subsidize the cost of bus fares, which are currently $1.50 per trip for riders.
Bruce Adams, the Senior Operations Planner for the GTA, presented the program of projects for the GTA for the upcoming fiscal year. The program includes the addition of hybrid buses, which cost 40 to 50 percent more than regular buses. The recurrent maintenance is less costly with hybrid buses, but GTA representatives did concede that there is a high replacement cost for batteries that only last about five years.
Councilman Zack Matheny jumped on the discussion. Matheny, who has advocated for increasing the price of bus fares by twenty cents, pointed out that the GTA costs the City of Greensboro around $23 million each year, and at a rate of $35 per bus ride.
“If we raise the rates could we not do more to help GTA?” asked Matheny. “The cost of buses is going up. The cost of fuel is going up. Do you see where I’m going with this?”
Councilwoman Sharon Hightower expressed her strong disagreement with Matheny on the issue, but eventually they decided to table the discussion for now and agree to disagree.
A twenty cent increase would add up for members of the community who rely on public transportation to get around everyday. A person making two or three round trips a day could end up paying an extra dollar a day.
Matheny demonstrated that this issue will most likely be a priority for him in the future. “You’re probably going to hear a lot more about this from me,” said Matheny.