The Person County Board of Commissioners approved a fare increase for the Person Area Transportation System at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.
The increase – PATS’ first in the county in 10 years, according to Transportation Director Glen LaBar Jr. – is to a mileage-based system that is common in the transportation industry, LaBar said.
“One of the things that was my goal as director was to make PATS fiscally sound, so we are proposing a fare increase this year,” LaBar said.
The change will go into effect at the start of the 2020-2021 fiscal year July 1.
The previous fare of $2 each way within Person County will be $2 each way under 10 miles, $3 each way between 10 and 20 miles and $4 each way over 20 miles.
Rates for transportation outside the county will not change.
The PATS Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance Program reduces the rates to $1, $2 and $3 for the mileage ranges for riders aged 60 or those who are disabled. Applications for that program can be found online.
The no-show policy has also been updated to reflect a $5 fee inside the county and $10 outside of the county.
The commissioners raised several questions on PATS funding.
LaBar explained that of the $1 million PATS budget, about $170,000 came from local funding in the last fiscal year.
LaBar said PATS estimated earning $265,000 this year.
“I expect this year for us to probably hit around $321,000 in general revenue, which would be a pretty large increase,” he said.
LaBar estimated that the fare increase will generate about $25,000 in additional revenue for the system.
The state and federal money coming into PATS is increasing each year, LaBar said, and the upcoming census will be a factor in the amount PATS gets in the future.
“Hopefully that will be good and we can get some extra money to keep the fares low and increase services – that’s the goal,” he said.
LaBar said PATS will likely hit 65,000 trips this year, up about 15,000 from last year. He also said that PATS is nearing the end of its capacity to meet the demand of services.
Chairman Ray Jeffers said the increase in riders shows that there is a serious need for transportation in the county which is generally for low income residents. He asked how the fare increase affects the rider.
LaBar said a majority of requests come from the two lower fare rates.
“I agree with you,” LaBar said. “I try and keep it as low as I can, because I know when I talk to passengers and tell them our rates we do have folk who say they can’t afford $1 or $2. So I do have some great concern there, but I also want to make sure I’m managing the expenses and the revenues.”
Jeffers also noted those expenses and revenues.
“That was my other thing is looking at increasing the rate when the county is putting in [$170,000] but we’re generating almost $300,000,” Jeffers said. “I’m looking at the need for us to go up compared to the citizens that we’re going to go up on.”
The motion to approve the increase passed 4-1 with Jeffers in opposition.