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Carroll commissioners reject college bus fare increase

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday to reject a proposal to increase the Student College Bus Fare for Carroll Community College students who use public transportation to get to class.

Students using Carroll Area Transit System (CATS) to get to and from the college would have seen their rates increase anywhere from $50 to $217 a semester, depending on how often they use the bus.

Commissioner Dave Roush cast the lone vote in favor of the increase.

CATS first introduced this proposal to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners in August and has since opened the topic for public comment, but none was received. The increase was aimed at reducing the amount of money CATS loses each semester from the program.

During the 2013 spring semester, 25 students purchased bus passes for the college fare program. The actual fares collected for those trips would have been $11,704, but through the student program, CATS only collected $4,125, resulting in a loss of $7,579.

Louise Tinkler, CATS Executive Director, said the transit agency and the college agreed that an increase would not have affected ridership.

The increase would have been the first for the college program since 2011 and only the second increase since 1994, according to Tinkler.

The increases were scheduled to take effect for the winter semester beginning in January.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild said he voted against the increase, in part, because of concerns with the structure of the increase.

"It's one thing to increase [the rate], it's another thing to double it," he said.

Tinkler said the approriate path forward would be for CATS to discuss the situation with the county department of citizen services and its board of directors before proposing other changes to bus fares.

Students are currently charged based on their proximity to the college for the program.

For example, if a student lived within 10 miles of the college, they would be charged $150 for a semester long pass and if a student lived within 20-25 miles of the college, the student would be charged $200.

The new fare proposed by CATS would have charged students based on their proximity to the college and the number of days they ride the bus.

For example, a student riding the bus four days a week, from a starting point located within five miles of the college would have paid $150 previously. Under the proposed fare, they would pay $224, which represents a 50 percent discount on the actual fare required for non-college riders.

But a student living within 10 to 15 miles of the college who rides the bus four days a week would have seen their fare more than double. Previously this student would have paid $175 for unlimited trips to the college, but under the new proposal, they would be required to pay $392.

Based on the spring semester ridership, CATS estimated that revenue to the agency from the student far program would rise from $4,125 to $7,399 if the proposal were approved.

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