LCT Announces Increase in Bus Fare
Director of Lorain County Transit Tom Ferguson took 15 minutes at the beginning of Monday’s city council meeting to lay out reasons for the impending price hike of bus tickets. It was the second-to-last of five public hearings in towns all over Lorain County in which this issue was addressed.
Ferguson started by explaining that there is no money systematically set aside for financing the system: “The LCT is probably the largest county transit system without a dedicated source of funding.”
The Local Government Fund contributes about $1 million per year, but it has not set its budget yet. According to Ferguson, the Lorain County Commissioners, who run the fund, expect that it will “come up short about $3 million.”
“The county is looking to do this on a five-year basis,” Ferguson went on. The fares will increase incrementally over the next five years.
Specifically, the full fare ticket will increase to $1.75 from the current $1.50 in 2007, ultimately climbing to $2.35 by 2011. Half-fare – made available to seniors, the disabled, children under 14 and anyone with a Medicare card – will make its way from $0.75 to $1.15 in that time period.
“We give [Oberlin College] students a break on the airport express,” said Ferguson. “They actually support half of that route.”
The price hike raises the fare on Route 33 from $3 to $4. It was originally going to be $3.50 but, according to Ferguson, “Vice President of Finance Ron Watts met with students who suggested it be four [dollars]. They didn’t want to deal with quarters.”
This raise has not yet been finalized and will not be until after one of the next two county commissioners meetings, on either Dec. 14 or 19. The hearing was tape-recorded so citizen feedback could be directly relayed to that body.
In the spirit of feedback, questions among attendees from the town focused on the LCT’s quality of service. One resident of Kendal explained why the Community Connection route – once it had been expanded to include Kendal – failed to attract wide use.
“The word got out that you couldn’t get back to your starting point after 6 p.m.,” he said. “You picked us up and you dumped us.”
He continued, “You tried to get a service to us but you didn’t follow through.” The Kendal stop on Route 21 has since been cancelled.
Another concern was brought up by Council Member Tony Mealy.
“There has been some local comment about where [the LCT] stops in town. There’s no longer a place where people can conveniently relieve themselves or [find] shelter if there’s inclement weather,” he said.
Responded Ferguson, “We’ve ordered a shelter and we’re moving the stop back to the Rax.” He explained that the move was due to the construction site currently occupying the area.
He then solicited further comments about the price rise itself, as that was the reason for the meeting.
“If we’re going to have a fare hike then we care about the service,” said Council Member and Professor of Politics Eve Sandberg. “[For example,] students often use the airport express at certain institutional times. What we’re hearing from them is that they’ll often wait in line for an hour and not be able to get on the bus.”
She continued, referring to the concerns of the Kendal resident, “[The service is] not working for a lot of [people]. Maybe you want to sit down with those particular communities.” Sandberg suggested a reservation system or increased buses for those institutional rush times.
Oberlin College Transit Committee, a student-led group headed by College junior Ezra Pincus-Roth, has been working with LCT since last year to coordinate an increase in bus service for those days.
Said Pincus-Roth of the fare hike, “It’s understandable but I wish we could see improvements in service. The college needs to take greater issue [with it]. We need people: Our group is three juniors. The college needs to take some burden for its future.”
The fare is currently comparable to similar systems but would be comparatively higher after the increase. However, as Ferguson pointed out, those systems tend to have a dedicated source of funding.
The five-year plan is changeable. If issues come up, local ordinances are passed, the whole review process with public hearings would happen over again with a different system.
“This is it for now,” said Ferguson.
Although the number of riders continues to be level or rising, the general feeling in the meeting was discontent with the service itself.
“You can’t discuss a fare hike in a vacuum,” said Council Member David Ashenhurst.