GRTC has announced it will remain zero fare through June 30, 2022, as approved by the Board of Directors this week.
Using state and dederal COVID relief funding, GRTC has been fare-less to ride local bus, Pulse (Bus Rapid Transit), Express Bus, and CARE/Paratransit vans since March 19, 2020 in response to public health measures and in the interest of economically distressed communities who rely on public transit services to reach jobs, food, healthcare, and other critical community resources.
The transit company’s annual operating and capital expenditures for FY2022 are expected to approach $100 million, including $5.8 million enabling zero fare operations from federal relief funding.
In FY2019 before the pandemic, GRTC received $6.8 million in fare revenue directly from riders and paid $1.6 million in expenses associated with fare collection, resulting in a $5.2 million net fare box revenue. For FY2022, non-staffing fare expenses were removed from the budget. Fare collection staff have been offered essential non-fare job functions within GRTC. The projected net revenue difference of $5.8 million will be replaced in the budget by federal COVID relief funds as the region continues to recover economically from the pandemic.
“Although bus ridership did decline in 2020 across the nation during the pandemic, GRTC local ridership drops were modest by comparison and are already approaching pre-COVID levels,” said GRTC CEO Julie Timm. “I attribute the ridership rebound to three areas: 1) the strength of the 2018 network redesign connecting essential workers to jobs; 2) the extensive COVID protective measures enacted early and throughout the pandemic to protect staff and riders; and 3) the ongoing commitment to zero fare operations to protect the health and financial stability of our riders.”
Time also said that GRTC’s focus on connecting people to essential resources resulted in higher sustained ridership. “Higher ridership translates into increased federal and state formula funding and creates a positive feedback loop for GRTC to improve and grow the region’s mobility network.”