Suffolk County plans to increase bus fares for the second time in two years, and some riders say they aren’t opposed to the fee hike as long as the increased revenue is used to improve service.
During a 20 minute public hearing at the county center in Riverhead, four people testified that more routes should be added with the additional revenue raised from the proposed fare increases. The fee hikes include raising the fares for two East End bus routes, the S92 and the 10C, from $2 to $2.25.
The S92, which goes from East Hampton to Orient, has the highest Saturday ridership and the second highest overall ridership in the county. The S92 also drops people off at the Riverhead train station and the County Center. The 10C line connects locations east of East Hampton to the S92.
Last year, the fare was raised from $1.50 to $2 in order to provide Sunday bus service on the lines for a 10-week period. It was the first time the county raised fares since 1992.
North Fork Legislator Ed Romaine said he supported last year’s fare increase because it was used to increase services. But, Mr. Romaine said, he opposed the the new fee hike because the increased revenue isn’t planned to be used for improving services.
“At some point, you have to say ‘How much are we going to put on people during very bad economic times?’” Mr. Romaine said. “Using this revenue to balance the budget isn’t the right thing to do.”
Denis Yuen, a volunteer at John’s Place Homeless Outreach, said he supports the proposed fee hike “if, and only if, Sunday service is reinstated on a year-round basis.”
“If the East End service can become more reliable and efficient, ridership should increase and bring in addition revenue to help offset additional service costs,” Mr. Yuen said.
Chris Chatterton, a planner at the Department of Public Works, said the Legislature approved the fee hike in its 2012 operating budget in order to raise $1 million in revenue.
But the county still needs approval from the state Department of Transportation before it can implement the new fare, he said.
Fares for all other county buses would increase by 50 cents, from $1.50 to $2. Student bus fares would increase from $1 to $1.25 and seniors will also have to pay 75 cents to ride county buses, up from 50 cents.
Transfer fees will remain the same and Suffolk County Accessible Transportation Services bus fares will remain at $3.
Now that the county has concluded public hearings in both Hauppauge and Riverhead, the county’s request to increase its bus fares will be sent to the state for review. If approved, the fee hikes could go into effect as early as May 1, Mr. Chatterton said.