Higher fares would affect nearly everyone who rides the Bay Town Trolley, but only a dozen people showed up at Wednesday's public meeting to give feedback on the proposal.
If approved, the rate hike would be the trolley's third in five years. But according to the public transportation agency's manager, even that wouldn't offset the budget shortfall.
By day's end, 13 people had weighed in on the proposed fare increase. "A lot of folks would rather see it not happen... they would like to see more services offered," said Gene Keen, Chief Administration Manager.
Funding cuts, rising fuel prices and increased operating costs are squeezing the life out of the trolley and leaving few alternatives. "When there are decreases in funding because of other issues, one of the options that we have in order to make up those differences is to look at the fare," said Keen.
New pricing would leave the base fare at $1.50 but increase the cost of a one day pass to $5 and raise the monthly pass to $40. While that might not seem like much to some riders, the higher fares are cause for concern for public assistance agencies.
"We have a lot of people here that are struggling already," said Robin Merritt of Catholic Charities. "It's going to be difficult for them to purchase unless there's assistance through agencies such as ours."
Keen said the new fares are in line with similar size systems in Florida but he understands why public sentiment is against the hike. "We know it's not comfortable for everyone," said Keen. "They may have to adjust what they buy [and] how often they buy."
James Johnson, who rides the trolley four or five time a month, said he's okay with the increase. "The trolley is working well the way it is and I would like to see them add additional services rather than cut it," he said. "If it takes a fare increase, I'm for it."
The Transportation Planning Organization board will meet on Wednesday, February 27, to consider the proposal. If approved, the increase will take effect March 1.