Bus fare increase in Fayetteville would burden low-income riders

January 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

The Fayetteville Area System of Transit is proposing an increases in their basic adult bus fare, from $1 to $1.25, and in the senior bus fare from 30 cents to 50 cents. In addition, transfers would no longer be free. While this may seem like a small increase, the Fayetteville Observer reports that for many people who rely on public transportation to get to work and to get around town, these increases would be unaffordable.

An article today profiles one Fayetteville resident who works as a server at a Shoney’s restaurant. She commutes almost daily by bus, making transfers along the way, paying $2 each way. The proposed changes would increase her fare by $1. The problem isn’t that people like her are unwilling to pay the extra fare to support the city’s public transit system; it’s that the extra fares would not help make the system more accessible. As the article points out, the buses don’t run on Sundays, which require people like the worker profiled in the Observer to take taxis to work, which are much more costly.

For households with less disposable income, affordable public transit options are very important.  As we blogged about last month, public transit is critical to low-income workers across the state. Among those who commuted by public transit in 2011, 67 percent had incomes below $25,000.  With higher housing costs in the central urban areas, low-income people must live further away from these urban cores to find affordable housing– which also means that they’re further away from jobs. Developing public transportation that meets the needs of those who actually use the system would help connect people to jobs and to other services regionally.

Investing in transportation is not just a good idea for helping low-income workers; it’s also a good investment for generating economic development in the state. The American Public Transportation Association reports that  every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports 36,000 jobs.

Public transit also allows families to save when they don’t need to rely on multiple vehicles, helps to alleviate traffic and pollution, is a key link for people with disabilities and seniors, and it helps to attract to businesses to areas.

All in all, public transportation is a good investment locally and regionally. As we continue on the path of economic recovery, investments in things like public transit can help those regions that continue to struggle and lag in economic growth. However, any expansions or increases should be balanced with the needs of those who actually use the system. Keeping the needs and challenges faced by underserved communities and regions at the forefront will help to made any investments by the state a success for all.

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Entry filed under: Economic Development, Economy, Jobs & Employment, Transportation. Tags: , , , .

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