Increased bus fares, fewer routes possible |

Increased bus fares, fewer routes possible

Increased fares and fewer routes are a possibility for Nevada County’s Gold Country Stage bus system later this year due to rising fuel costs and declining state funds.

Fares of $1 per ride have been enjoyed by riders since 1990, but members of the county’s Transit Services Commission hinted strongly that could end at their meeting this morning.

“It’s getting to a point where we have to raise prices or cut services,” said commissioner and Supervisor Nate Beason. “Are we at a point were we have to take a hard look at how we’re operating?” he asked.

“Yes, and we’re doing it,” said Susan Healy-Harman, the county’s Transit Services Manager. “We need to look at options instead of waiting until the crisis hits.”

With large increases in fuel costs the past six months, “We’ll have to do something to recoup that cost,” said Commissioner and Supervisor John Spencer.

Ridership increased 10 percent during the 2006-2007 fiscal year and is on track to rise another 10 percent for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, a reflection of gasoline cost increases, according to Healy-Harman.

But bus rider fares only pay back about 11 percent of the cost to run the service.

In addition, the revenue from a 1/4 cent local sales tax that funds the bus system went flat this fiscal year and is expected to dip for 2008-2009 because of the decreased sales at the pump and the economy in general.

Throw in decreased funding expectations from the state due to its budget constraints and the county is looking at a deficit up to $200,000 to start the 2008-2009 fiscal year, Healy-Harman said.

Commission members told Healy-Harman to come back with recommendations for the future operation of the bus routes for the July meeting. There is a possibility of an August public hearing for proposed service changes.

To read the full story, see Thursday’s edition of The Union.

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