CATS seeks fare increase

The Charlotte Area Transit System is seeking a 20-cent fare increase starting in July, which would raise the price of a one-way train and bus ticket to $2.20.

CATS budgets are stretched in part because of projected higher fuel costs and a recent new labor agreement reached with bus drivers.

That December labor deal – which averted a looming strike – includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for bus drivers, who are technically contract employees. Lynx Blue Line drivers, who are city employees, would be subject to whatever raise is approved by the City Council for all employees.

The transit system is also building the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line extension to University City.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission, the governing body for how the half-cent transit sales tax is spent, has a policy of gradual fare increases to avoid sticker shock.

But transit riders would have to pay significantly more when compared with the first year of the light-rail line, which opened in 2007.

When the Lynx opened, the cost of a one-way ticket was $1.30. Seven years later, the ticket price would be $2.20 – a nearly 70 percent increase.

The fare increase is expected to generate $2.77 million of revenue on top of the transit system’s total annual income of $149.3 million.

The amount of hours CATS buses are operating is projected to increase slightly, by 6,150 hours out of a total of 806,150 service hours.

Express bus routes inside Mecklenburg County would increase to $3 from $2.75; express bus routes to neighboring counties would increase to $4.40 from $4.

The fare increase must be approved by the MTC.