GRTC routes in danger

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - GRTC faces a difficult choice. An important funding stream is running out and now the transit system could be forced to cut service and raise prices.

In general, a rider only picks up about 20% of the tab for a bus ticket. The other 80% comes from government sources. GRTC is about to lose a big chunk of that cash that helps to fund three express runs from Petersburg and Chesterfield and now they are now forced to fill in the gap.

Roy Shara counts on the GRTC express run from Petersburg to get him back and forth to Richmond every day. As it stands right now, the service isn't perfect.

"I'd like to see more frequent runs with smaller vehicles," Shara said.

Unfortunately for Ray, that is not what GRTC is considering. A funding stream from the federal government that helps to support three express runs from the south into Richmond is about to run out. The transit system has to make up the cost somewhere.

"It is a double whammy of the worst kind for a transit system," said Larry Hagan.

Hagan is in charge of figuring out what buses go where for GRTC and he knows that unless a local government can make up the difference, this valuable bus service, is going to have to change; a change that could impact up to 360 people.

"That is going to mean a reduction in service and an increase in fare in order to find the right balance," Hagan said.

The funding doesn't run out until the spring. So GRTC is asking the riders which would be easier to absorb: a hefty increase with the same service - fares could go from as little to $3 to as much as $9.25, or a reduction in service with a smaller increase.

Roy already knows what he'd prefer.

"I'd rather see the fair increased, the frequency of the run is already to low in my opinion," he said.

Hagan is concerned that if the ticket price goes up too much the riders will go away all together. No matter what the future of these runs is bleak for customers like Roy.

"Those runs would be standing room only, I guarantee it," Shara added.

This uncertain future for riders could also be something that may be being brought out now to encourage local governments to find a way to come up with the cash. A difficult proposition considering how tight many city and county budgets are right now.

GRTC also argues that people who don't ride the bus could be impacted by this decision. More commuters driving their own cars into the city at peak times means more traffic during Richmond rush hours.

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