RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Public transportation is the primary mode of transportation for thousands of people in Raleigh every day.
While riders have taken advantage of free trips on GoRaleigh buses for the last three years, that stops June 30 when the current fiscal year ends.
City council members like Jonathan Melton are now asking staff to present options to keep buses free for those who need it most.
“I still believe in the fare-free policies of increasing ridership, reducing burden and barriers to transit, and also providing relief to our cost burdened residents,” said Melton.
Pre-pandemic, about a third of riders used GoRaleigh buses for free through existing programs. Another 12% rode at a discounted rate through a reduced fare policy, larger used by Medicare card holders.
Raleigh’s council is also asking staff to consider the use of technology so people who can afford to ride the bus don’t need to have exact change when they ride.
While the pay structure is sorted out, there are concerns free bus rides are contributing to recent crime downtown.
“I would be interested in seeing if staff could bring to us opportunities to re-introduce some structure to address some safety issues while also accomplishing the policy goals of fare free transit,” Melton said.
Each trip on a GoRaleigh bus previously cost $1.25. The costs adds up for those who rely on public transportation. City data shows 82% of riders have a household income less than $35,000 a year. More than 60% of riders use GoRaleigh for work trips with about 40% of riders traveling via bus at least six days a week.
City council members expect to hear an update from staff on a potential new fare structure in January. Staff will have to work fast to work the plan into the new budget which takes effect July 1, 2024.