As the City of Williamsburg wrangles with turning red to black on balance sheets, riding the red and green bus lines will be more expensive for some Williamsburg residents and students at the College of William and Mary.
Effective July 1, the cost to College students for the unlimited bus and trolley usage they enjoy will increase by $1 per semester.
“For the first time since 2006, in response to rising fuel prices, the College contractual rate for FY 2011-12 is scheduled to increase,” College Parking and Transportation Manager Bill Horacio said in an e-mail.
“Consequently student bus service fees which are included as part of the General Auxiliary Services fees will increase one dollar per semester from $26 to $27.”
Horacio explained the College currently pays an hourly rate of $61 for unlimited student use of the green line and a per-ride fee of 50 cents for other Williamsburg Area Transport lines. Due to rising fuel and maintenance costs, as well as future service improvements, those rates will jump to $63 per hour and 75 cents per ride, respectively. Ultimately, the College will pass along the costs to the students, but the per-ride cost with a College ID will remain free.
The increases, however, follow a year in which bus use by College students declined. Ridership on the green line dropped by 7 percent and use of other routes by 20 percent, according to the College Parking Advisory Committee.
Separate from the changes to the College’s contract, WAT has proposed increases to the price of all-day bus tickets and the addition of weekly and monthly pass options for Williamsburg residents.
The proposal would keep the single-ride price at $1.25 and the transfer fee would remain 25 cents, but the cost of an unlimited day-pass would jump from $1.50 to $2. The handicapped fee would increase a whole dollar to $3. Middle and high school students, who currently ride free, would be charged 50 cents for a non-school trip.
One of the reasons for the increases is the expiration of federal grants to WAT.
“We have to find new revenue for the system in 2013 and 2014,” WAT Executive Director Rickards told the Virginia Gazette. “We don’t want our riders to foot the full bill. We want an even split between federal, state, local and user revenues.”
Some riders were worried about the new costs.
“I never buy a one-way, so 50 cents more for an all-day will add up,” Abby McCourt, an unemployed mother of a fourth grader, said. “And then next year I’ll have to pay when I bring my son, so yeah, we’re really going to feel it.”
Others thought it was unfair that those without another mode of transportation would be forced to bare the brunt.
“It’s really going to hurt the people who don’t have any other options,” Lavar Brown, a construction worker from Williamsburg, said. “I’m alright because I got my truck, but I’ve already heard people tell me how upset they are, especially those with kids. It’s going to be like one, two more dollars to ride the bus. It’s tough to do that these days.”
The fare changes will face public hearings over the summer with an approval vote slated for Aug. 17. The plan is for fare changes to take effect in September.