Politics & Government

CATS to drop 15% discount on some bus passes

John Quick awaits his bus at the transit center in uptown. The Charlotte Area Transit System is planning to drop a discount on 10-day bus passes but could reconsider that move for seniors and the disabled after criticism.
John Quick awaits his bus at the transit center in uptown. The Charlotte Area Transit System is planning to drop a discount on 10-day bus passes but could reconsider that move for seniors and the disabled after criticism. tcfleming@charlotteobserver.com

The Charlotte Area Transit System is planning to drop a discount on 10-day bus passes but could reconsider that move for seniors and the disabled after criticism.

CATS has offered a 15 percent discount on 10-ride passes, but the Metropolitan Transit Commission, which oversees CATS operations, voted in April to eliminate the discount beginning July 1. The move was an effort to help balance a projected $2.8 million budget shortfall. The transit commission considers fare increases every two years and last raised fares in 2014. Fares overall will remain at $2.20.

The elderly and disabled will continue to receive a 50 percent discount that’s required under federal law.

John Quick, 64, and his wife Deborah, are both frequent bus riders. John has suffered three strokes, which left him unable to walk.

Deborah said the increase will hurt their ability to afford the ADA 10-ride pass.

“We are on a fixed income,” she said. “It is hard as it is just paying for his injury costs.”

Pineville Mayor Jack Edwards, a voting member of the MTC, said the commission could vote at its June 22 meeting to keep the 15 percent discount for the elderly and disabled.

“It is favorable that we continue the discount for the handicapped,” he said. “Everybody (on the MTC) seemed to be OK with it.”

Conflicting recommendations

Two advisory committees considered three options for balancing the CATS budget and came up with conflicting recommendations.

The Citizen Transit Advisory Group wanted to keep the 15 percent discount and raise fares across the board by a nickel.

The other group, the Transit Services Advisory Committee, favored the option that the MTC ended up supporting. The Transit Services Advisory Committee is comprised of CATS customers.

“TSAC are the speakers of the riders,” said Olaf Kinard, the director of marketing and communications for CATS.

Kinard said most minorities and low-income riders use cash fares, so they don’t benefit from a 10-ride pass discount, and a fare increase would hit them harder than other riders.

A CATS fare equity analysis contributed to the decision to eliminate the 10-day pass discount.

Mike Warner, Transit Services Advisory Committee chairman, said he was concerned about the impact an overall fare increase would have on low-income riders.

“Our entire focus is who are the most vulnerable riders,” Warner said.

Robert Padgett, a member of the Citizen Transit Advisory Group, questioned whether CATS would bring in enough revenue from elderly and disabled riders to justify cutting the 15 percent discount.

“Statistically, the number of passes sold to the elderly and disabled were an insignificant amount of money, but the increase has a significant impact on the elderly and disabled people,” he said.

Tyler Fleming: 704-358-5355

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