KAT recommends fare increase to offset projected deficit
WILLMAR -- Facing a $33,000 projected deficit in 2009, the Kandiyohi Area Transit operation's board voted Tuesday to recommend an increase in rider fees.
Final action will be taken by the joint powers board in November.
High fuel prices have made it difficult to operate with current revenues.
It's been five years since fares increased, said John Groothuis, KAT transit director.
The increase has a unique twist.
Riders who are picked up and dropped off at their door in pre-arranged rides would see an increase of 25 cents and a per-ride fee of $1.50.
Riders who walk to a neighborhood bus stop and are picked up would not see an increase but would pay $1.25 per ride.
There are 22 bus stops throughout Willmar. Most are marked with small signs on street posts. Groothuis said KAT would increase information about where the bus stops are located.
KAT provides between 100,000 to 115,000 rides of this kind per year. If no one used the cheaper bus stop option, the quarter increase would raise an additional $25,000 to $28,570 a year.
The revenue will be less if people take advantage of the cheaper rate, but KAT would potentially see savings in mileage.
The board also proposed an increase in door-to-door service on the same day the ride is requested. If the proposal is approved the one-way fare would be $2.50.
KAT provides about 6,000 rides per year of this type. Raising the fare 50 cents would raise another $3,000.
Given the financial constraints of some patrons, including elderly and low-income riders, the decision to increase fees wasn't taken lightly.
Yet board members said KAT could not operate at a deficit. Considering the increase in gas prices in the last five years, they agreed it was reasonable to ask riders to pay a little more.
Elderly riders who are unable to pay the fee have the option of putting a donation in an envelope.
The board is also recommending that the evening taxi service KAT subsidizes continues for another year and that a contract be negotiated with RideNet owner Dale Victor.
The joint powers board had earlier voted to end the program at the end of October.
Although ridership dropped in May through July, the number of rides is now than this time last year.
KAT pays RideNet $20 an hour for four hours a day of service, no matter how many rides are provided. KAT receives some state reimbursement for the service. Riders also pay a $3 fee.
The service is needed for people who take a KAT bus to work and need a ride home after work when KAT buses are done running for the day. The taxi service uses a handicapped-accessible vehicle that accommodates wheelchairs.
Overall, the total ridership on the KAT buses is higher than in 2007. Saturday ridership fluctuates, but is higher than last year.
The board was also informed that a new 17-passenger bus has arrived and will provide transportation for outings for seniors and people with disabilities. Entities, like nursing homes and group homes, can lease the service from KAT. The bus has space for six wheelchairs.