A proposed rate increase for Centre Area Transportation Authority bus riders would offset the loss of about $300,000 in federal funding the organization faces this year.
The 25-cent increase for one-way standard fares is expected to generate about $300,000 in additional revenue for CATA, its board of directors heard at a regular meeting Monday.
Bus fares would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under the proposal. That would translate to an increase in cost for a one-month OnePass from $59 to $69. Tokens would increase to $1.75 each, or $34 for a roll of 20.
Kimberly Fragola, CATA’s director of administration, said Monday that the rate increase is not tied to the loss of federal funding, which came in January when a national gas fuel incentive rebate was discontinued.
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She said CATA hasn’t raised bus rates since 2010 and that officials have held off on incremental raises since that time, opting instead to “make it easier for people and save it up until its a quarter.”
“The most recent data from 2011, $1.50 (fare) was one of the lowest in the state,” Fragola said. “Three years have passed since then, and we are getting further and further behind.”
Fares for CATARide, the door-to-door service for seniors and the disabled, would remain unchanged under the proposal. Those rates previously increased in August, from $2.50 to $3.
The proposed increase comes as more riders than ever use CATA bus service.
Ryan Harshbarger, CATA’s director of transportation, said Monday that the bus service remains on pace to surpass the roughly 7 million riders served in the last fiscal year, which for CATA runs from July through June.
The projected increase in riders comes despite a 15.7-percent decrease in the month of January from the same month in 2013.
Harshbarger said the decrease was primarily driven by a late return for Penn State students.
Eric Bernier, CATA’s service development manager, said the organization made “significant midyear service adjustments” in January to service new student housing developments that went online last year.
“Fortunately, there are no new major student housing developments in the current pipeline that will require significant service adjustments or expansions in the next fiscal year 2014-15,” he said.
Bernier said it’s good that only minor tweaks will have to be made in the next year, because CATA might not have the fleet to keep up with additional expansion.
“Any service expansion would be very difficult next year anywhere due to our current bus fleet limitations,” he said. “In a certain sense, the fact that there are no longer, urgent demands next year is working to our favor.”