Green Mountain Transit (GMT) will implement its NextGen Service Plan and will increase ride fares from $1.25 to $1.50 effective June 17, the board of commissioners decided last month. “We are excited to see the first phase of this plan move to implementation,” general manager Mark Sousa said in a press release. “We had historically high attendance at our eight public meetings, and public, stakeholder and municipal input shaped the final plan. We look forward to roll-out.”
Attendees at recent GMT public hearings seemed largely receptive to the 25-cent fare hike, according to GMT Board of Commissioners Chair Thomas Chittenden. The company’s fares have remained stagnant since 2005. Since then, GMT has been challenged by level state funding and increasing operational costs. About four years of declining ridership has also contributed to financial strain, Chittenden said.
“If the ridership doesn’t turn around, we’re looking at another rough year,” he said, adding low gas prices and a strong economy might have steered folks away from public transport in recent years. GMT will implement the 25-cent fare increase, eliminate several positions through attrition and create route efficiencies under NextGen to mitigate financial strains, according to Chittenden. However, the company will lower the cost of its 30-day pass from $50 to $40.
During the South Burlington public hearing, riders expressed concern about proposed NextGen service changes to the UMall/Airport route. The change would have seen the bus skipping former stops along Hinesburg Road. Riders would have to walk up to half a mile from former stops on that road to Kennedy Drive or Williston Road to catch the bus.
“The public was heard,” Chittenden said. Following the meetings, GMT decided it will maintain current stops along Hinesburg Drive.
GMT commissioners did not vote on a proposal to raise the Montpelier LINK Express fare from $4 to $5. That route ushers riders from the Queen City to the capital and vice versa. According to Chittenden, GMT officials will likely revisit that proposal.
As for the company’s member town and city assessments, those will be frozen at the current rate for FY20. In towns like Essex, where service is being reduced, there will be no rebate and in municipalities like South Burlington, where service hours are being increased, there will be no additional charges, Chittenden said. However, he added, GMT will assess changes this year and adjust rates accordingly for FY21.