JTA Proposes 50 Percent Bus Fare Hike; the Increase in Price Would Coincide with Several New Payment Methods

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Byline: Adam Kealoha Causey

Basic fares on Jacksonville Transportation Authority buses next year could jump 50 percent.

The agency announced Friday it has proposed hikes that, if approved by its board, would start Jan. 30.

A news release billed the jumps as a "simpler fare structure" that will offset operating costs.

Most one-way fares will go up by 50 cents, according to the proposal. A regular bus ticket, for example, would be $1.50 instead of $1.

The increases are expected to bring in an additional $2.5 million to $3 million annually.

Seniors 60 and older could still ride for free. Student monthly passes would stay $30, and a spin on the Skyway would still cost 50 cents.

New options include one-day and weekend unlimited ride tickets.

"Since 1999, JTA has implemented only one fare increase," agency spokeswoman Shannon Eller said in the release. "During this same time, fuel, labor and operations costs have risen sharply."

Even with $10 million in budget cuts - mostly through running vans instead of buses on neighborhood routes - more revenue is needed to keep up service, Eller said.

Public transit advocate Michael Smith said the changes will drive down ridership, particularly because of the sluggish economy. Many households include multiple bus riders who take several trips a day, which can add up.

"That would be like going to the gas station today and paying $3.50 [a gallon] for gas and tomorrow paying $4.75 or $5," said Smith, 43, of Atlantic Beach. "It has an immediate impact on people's lives."

In 2011, JTA recorded an almost 7 percent increase in riders. …