Some users of Bay Area Transportation are upset about an apparent fare hike. The transportation service will be raising rates by almost 300% to some riders in out-lying areas. The managers of the service say they actually should have been charging the higher rates all along.
People that use Bay Area Transportation are generally on a fixed income. The service requires reservations the day before and a quote is given over the phone with the cost. But prices will soon be going up for residents in some of the more remote areas of the county, like Fountain and Southport. 3 grants cover a lot of the program's costs, one of them, non-sponsored. That non-sponsored grant requires passengers pay at least a 10% co-pay, but the program has been having them pay $1.25.
"A lot of the clients have not been able to meet their financial obligation of paying the $1.25 over the years and we've just kind of eaten the cost,” said Vince Staten, Bay Area Transportation Program Manager. “But again, after that annual audit and we were in the hole so bad and they went back and looked at what we were collecting in co-pays versus what we should have been collecting - it was astronomical."
Staten says the service will be willing to work with financially challenged riders who cannot cover the expense, but those users must have legitimate reasons for ducking the fare.
"If this ride is a life sustaining activity to dialysis or cancer treatments and you're telling us you can't pay the $1.25 or whatever the co-pay is for your ride, but you'll buy cigarettes or soda it's just very difficult for us to understand that."
The new fare structure takes effect November 1st. Prices are not increasing for Panama City residents, but Staten says fares could go up in the future to match those being charged by the Bay Towne Trolley Service.