With the new year will come new rates for customers of the Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA).
Customers who utilize DATA’s demand response service will find their fares increasing as much as five-fold in some cases when the new rates go into affect Jan. 1, 2014.
“It’s a very bad hardship on me,” said Jackie Lockie. “I have no other way to get to work or get to my doctors appointments.”
Lockie, 75, uses demand response service to get to and from her part-time job. The round trip currently costs $4. Next year, the ride to and from work will cost $22.
“I just don’t know what I will do,” she said. “I can’t go to work and turn around and pay it all back for the ride.”
Currently, Lockie receives a senior citizen discount on demand response trips. Next year, however, there will be no discounts based on age, disability or combination trips through the demand response service.
Demand response trips outside of the county will cost $3 per mile for both unloaded and loaded miles in addition to regular fares.
The changes are necessary due to federal funding cuts, according to Executive Director Dennis Schooley.
DATA was recently redesignated from a rural transit system to an urban transit system. The change will cost DATA about $700,000 in federal funding, or about one-third of the transit systems’ operational budget.
“This is something we would prefer not to do, but the situation is what it is,” Schooley said of the rate changes.
In the past, DATA was able to use a portion of its federal funding to subsidize demand response trips. Now the transit system will have to charge passengers the full cost of the trip.
“This is a lot of people’s lives we are dealing with,” Schooley said. “For the board to make a decision like this was extremely difficult.”
To ease the burden for DATA users, the transit system will not change the cost of fixed routes, which are $1. Users over 65 and under 18 are charged a fare of 50 cents.
DATA plans to expand its existing fixed routes. It is also working with several other county organizations to subsidize the cost of demand response routes.
Tax increases through a levy are not an option on the table.
“There’s been really no talk of putting a levy on or anything like that,” said DATA board member Roger Van Sickle.
DATA has scheduled public hearing on the fare changes for 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 at their offices at 119 Henderson Court in Delaware.