Bus fare hike would do major harm for scant benefit | TheUnion.com

Bus fare hike would do major harm for scant benefit

Any increases in bus fares in western Nevada County would hurt many of those who ride the bus without making a commensurate difference in the bus system’s deficit.

Fare hikes are far from a certainty. The Nevada County Transportation Commission, which oversees the Gold Country Stage, hired a consultant to study the bus service. One of the questions the consultant will examine is whether the fare – currently, $1 for a one-way ride – should be increased.

If we believe that passengers on Gold Country Stage should pay their own way, a substantial fare increase clearly would be in order. The current $1 fare, a total of $225,000 a year, pays a mere 20 percent of the bus system’s operating costs. (A quarter-cent sales tax and grants from the state and federal governments pay the rest.)

But few believe bus passengers should pay their own way.

Many of them are among the poor, the disabled and the elderly – people who have few transportation alternatives.

For some, the bus may be the only way they can get to the job that will allow them to earn money for a car. For others, the bus is the difference that allows them to continue school. And for still others, the transportation provided by the Gold Country Stage is one of the important factors in allowing them to live independently and outside of an institution.

We provide the bus service to them as one of the community’s contributions to the well-being of people who need our help.

For many of those who use the bus, even a modest increase in the fare – to $1.25, say, from the current $1 – creates a financial pinch. And the $55,000 or so raised each year by that same 25-cent fare increase wouldn’t do much to move the service toward self-sufficiency.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the community should agree to deficits without end in the bus service. Extensions of bus lines or additional hours of service all are expensive. Given the choice between more service or holding the line at the fare box, we’d vote for maintaining the $1 fare.

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