Amid record fuel costs, the local bus transportation system considered ending trip transfers. This move, unprecedented in the nation, would adversely impact the demographic riders most dependent on CTS’ service.
The public is encouraged to attend the City Council Transportation Committee meeting, Monday, August 25, at 4 PM, in the City Hall Conference Room, 4th Floor. The Clarksville Transit System staged a public hearing August 11 as part of its schedule rate review process. CTS has proposed to increase its base multi-trip prepaid bus fare, eliminate transfers entirely, end its service to Oak Grove’s Wal-Mart Supercenter complex and start-up a shuttle bus service for APSU. This plan had initial approval by the Transportation Committee.
The recent increase in fuel costs has affected the bus system, just as it has other functions of public service providers. Cost adjustments have to be made to offset and adapt to this new environment. However, as the average resident faces increasingly more stress in meeting their transportation needs, public transportation has seen increased ridership as people abandon their private vehicles in favor of the more economical bus system. Some augment their travel with CTS bus rides and shorter personal vehicle trips.
While Chattanooga and Nashville have taken this step, nowhere else in the nation is a public transit system contemplating ending transfers. It is rare for any trip within our community to be completed with a single bus ride. Residents in North Clarksville or out Madison Street, or Happy Hollow must transfer to a second bus to reach the St. Bethlehem area or Governor’s Square Mall or our new hospital complex, or just another part of our city. Want to go to the library, City Hall, the Public Library, a county commission meeting, a school board meeting or a city council meeting, see a movie, and use CTS- it’s going to require changing buses. What is now a $1.25 one-way expense would become a $2.00 expense and a $4.00 round trip cost for one adult. A family of four or five faces a massive increase, draining their meager minimum wage income even further. For such a family, a $5.00 one-way trip could become $10.00 one way, $20.00 round trip. Transfers are extensions of the original bus ride, not separate destinations in and of themselves. As such, they have not been priced as separate rides, and rightly so.
The socio-economic demographic of the targeted ridership for the CTS is least able to absorb this doubling of bus fares. Theirs is not the high disposal income bracket of our community. As the economy tightens up for all of us, many will find themselves having to adjust to this new reality and riding CTS buses will be part of that adjustment for many.
The increased costs of CTS certainly call for adjustments. However, CTS must be careful not “throw the baby out with the bath water,” as it were. Increase the price of a transfer, but don’t eliminate them. The riding public is not parking Infinitys’, Mercedes or Jags to ride CTS buses. Many don’t have personal cars and thus CTS service is their only transportation means. The aim should be to study other options which encourage more ridership, not discourage it.
Concerned citizenry are urged to make a priority to attend the Transportation Committee meeting. August 25th, 4 PM, City Hall Conference Room, City Hall, 1 Public Square. Your presence gives you voice. Your presence has impact. Let it be heard.
Editor’s Note: At an August 11 public hearing at the Clarksville Public Library, CTS, responding to customer input, presented a revised rate proposal that would implement an across the board fare increase of 25 cents and retain the present transfer system. That revised proposal will be before the City Council on August 25. The proposed changes would go into effect September 2.