• CATS bus fare increase has unintended consequences

    By: Peter Daut


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's been only a few weeks since fares went up on Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) buses, but it's already having some unintended consequences.

    Bus passes are vital to Kim Sowell and her 1-year-old baby.

    "It means getting to the doctor's appointment, getting to work, anywhere the baby needs to go," she said.

    But now riding the city bus costs 20 cents more each way. The Metropolitan Transit Commission raised prices in July by 10 percent.

    Sowell visits the Shelter Health Services Clinic, which budgets for passes, but the organization has been forced to divert money from other services to make up for the CATS fare increase.

    Making matters worse, the Department of Social Services recently ran out of passes it provides to those who qualify, and won't have more for the next few months.

    The Safe Alliance Domestic Violence Shelter is facing a similar challenge. It houses more than 100 women and children, most of whom depend on public transit.  The shelter must now change the way it provides passes to clients in need.

    "We won't be able to give them out as often, or we won't be able to give any one particular person as many as we used to," supervisor Jane Taylor said.

    CATS provided this statement to Eyewitness News:

    "The Metropolitan Transit Commission adopted a fare policy in 2001. The objectives of this fare policy include making transit simple and convenient, encouraging ridership through affordability and meeting mandated financial goals.  CATS looks at small, incremental fare increases every two years so as not to have  a large impact on riders all at once. We must keep pace with inflation and cost of operations to maintain the current level of service. CATS offers a 25 percent discount off passes to non-profits through the Employer Transit Coordinator program.  That is the largest discount CATS offers. Since the fare increase on July 1, sales to non-profit agencies remain strong."

    Jean Leier, APR
    Manager of Public & Community Relations
    Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)

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