TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) --Starting in August, bus riders in Tulare County will have to pay a little more when they hop on board. Tuesday morning, Tulare County Supervisors unanimously approved a fifty cent fare increase for fixed routes. It's the first fare hike in 30 years.
Many people like Luann Soria of Dinuba depend on the buses to get to work and doctor appointments.
"I don't have to worry about anything else, I just get on the bus and they take me to where I want to go," Soria said.
The fare is reasonable and has remained constant, until now. For the first time since the mid-1980's, TCAT will increase the general fixed route fare from $1.50 to $2. The Dial-a-Ride rate will also increase from $2.25 to $3.
Although TCAT sees 375,000 riders each year, last year, the amount of money taken in from fares made up just 13-percent of total operating costs; 12-percent is the minimum needed to keep receiving state and federal subsidies.
Services have expanded, costs have gone up, and so TCAT says they needed to raise the fare, which they say will still be on par with other neighboring systems.
"Well our fees our very competitive with the cities in our county, we have some of the lowest fares, not only here in Tulare County but also throughout the Valley," said Tulare County Resource Management Agency Director Ben Ruiz. "Our goal is to provide the best services that we can at the least possible cost."
Ruiz doesn't believe ridership will be significantly impacted. Riders we spoke to seem to think the same.
"People are still going to use it even if they have to pay the extra cents," said Woodlake resident and TCAT rider Daniel Topete.
"It sounds fair to me, they provide a great service, it sounds fair," Soria said.
In the last two months, TCAT has built ten new transit shelters, with plans to put in ten more. They're also looking to upgrade technology, install security cameras and purchase new buses.
The increased fares will start August 1st. But with them, Ruiz says riders can expect an increase in services. In addition to the various improvements TCAT has planned, they also plan to open their own maintenance yard by the year 2018.