The Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen are both interested in supporting a fare-free bus system, but only if students are willing to chip in.
With Student Congress' decision to place a referendum on the ballot Feb. 13, both governing boards say they will wait to see what the students decide.
The referendum will ask students to consider a student fee increase -- $8.49 per semester and $1.49 per credit hour in the summer -- to cover the University's pledge to pay for 40 percent of the cost of a fare-free bus system.
The rest of the cost will fall to Chapel Hill and Carrboro. "I'm certainly in favor of the concept," said Town Council Member Lee Pavao. "We just have to see about the overall cost."
The students will not be required to cover the remaining 60 percent if Chapel Hill and Carrboro choose not to support this endeavor monetarily, said Student Body Vice President Lerissa Rentas. "The way the referendum works is it is conditional," she said. "If for any reason the negotiations aren't to our liking, then we don't have to go through with it."
The Town Council is not sure exactly how much this system will cost them or where the money will come from, Pavao said. But he also said he thought there was a lot of support for it among students, and he hopes the vote will answer some questions about the students' feelings.
The Town Council most recently addressed the issue in a retreat held last Friday, Pavao said. The Town Council has known about the issue for about a year.
"Last year, the University proposed a fare-free system and the Town Council considered it, but there wasn't enough time to do anything about it," said Town Council member Kevin Foy.
Foy has acted as a liaison between the University and the towns, serving as a member of a joint task force that addresses local transit issues. "I've been talking to (Student Body President) Brad Matthews about it and (Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs) Carolyn Elfland," he said. "I've also been talking with Mayor Waldorf and members of the Town Council and (Alderman) Diana McDuffee and members of the Carrboro board."
Alderman Diana McDuffee said she wants to bring a resolution to the aldermen to support this issue. "If the students pass an increase in fees to cover the cost of providing bus service to students fare-free, I think that the Carrboro board will support that," she said.
Matthews, a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transit Task Force Committee, has been working to get the idea of fare-free busing on local leaders' agendas and has been in contact with members of both boards. He said he feels the students will support the increase to cover the costs. "I'm very hopeful (it will pass.) I wouldn't propose it if I didn't think it was a possibility."
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