Volusia County Council will vote Nov. 7 on increasing bus fares
BY JAMES HARPER
A final public hearing and vote will take place Nov. 7 by the Volusia County Council on increasing the fare to ride on Votran buses.
The issue will be decided during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting, according to Volusia County Spokesman Dave Byron.
Votran’s riders now pay $1.25 for a full fare one-way ticket.
The changes the council will be voting on include an increase from $1.25 to $1.50 in 2014 and to $1.75 in 2015; reduced fare up from $.60 to $.75 in 2014 and to $.85 in 2015; all-day pass increases from $3 to $3.50 in 2014 and to $3.75 in 2015.
Proposed increases include changing a three-day pass from $6 to $7 in 2014 to $7.50 in 2015; a seven-day pass up from $12 to $12.75 in 2014 and to $13 in 2015; and a 31-day pass increase from $40 to $45 in 2014 to $46 in 2015.
February start date
The last time Votran had a fare increase was in January 2007.
“Votran staff will take direction from County Council. County Council will make the decision regarding the fare increase when the issue comes before them. If County Council approves the fare increase, it will go into effect around February 2014,” said Michelle Coats, spokesperson for Votran.
The county sought public input on the proposed fare increase through five public meetings in September across the county. Bus surveys also were accessible to the public to fill out.
Shortage of funds
Votran’s General Manager Steven Sherrer said at a public meeting held at the Votran headquarters in South Daytona that this past March, Votran participated in a mini budget presentation to the county council and informed council members that Votran was anticipating a funding shortfall.
Sherrer also presented the information to Daytona Beach officials at a meeting in June with the hopes that they would be willing to give them money from general funds so a hike in fares would not be necessary.
“Nobody brought their checkbook, but it was a great opportunity for us to educate folks on the services we provide in their cities,” Sherrer said about that meeting.
Sherrer said that “although the fare for a one-way ride is $1.25, “a majority of the folks that board the bus are either boarding at some sort of reduced fare already or they’re using an unlimited ride pass.
“Our average fare we collect per board is 67 cents,” Sherrer noted.
Sherrer added that many people think public transportation supports itself. If that were the case, he said, Votran would have to charge a fare of $5 as a base fare and would have to maintain the same level of boardings.
Votran currently has about 3.6 million fixed route boardings a year. A one-way fare is below the state average rate of $1.56.
‘A scary thing’
No one at the public meeting on Sept. 10 at the Votran headquarters on Big Tree Road spoke against the fare hike.
“I think we need more location announcements on the buses like every time it turns the corner,” said bus rider Frank Andrews of South Daytona.
Elizabeth Lendian of Deleon Springs was concerned that Route 60 was going to be cut to save money.
Sherrer assured her there is no discussion at Votran or the county to discontinue the only connector between the east side and west side of the county.
Jonathan Chase, who is visually impaired and rides the bus frequently, called the price increase “a scary thing.”
“I hope there’s going to be a way that us blind people can get a fair amount with such a small-type budget for our transportation,” he said.
To help offset higher operating costs, the county council took the first steps toward a fare increase during a July 11 meeting in DeLand when members directed Votran staff to begin a public outreach process to inform users of a proposed fare hike.
According to the Votran website, the 25-cent increase in fixed route service fares is anticipated to generate additional annual income of about $230,000; a 50 cent increase would produce about $348,000 in additional revenue.
Fares will continue to only be paid with cash, tokens or passes. Transfers will not be issued.