Chapel Hill and Carrboro town officials began working with University officials Tuesday to formulate a proposal on fare-free busing to present to both towns' governing boards.
Students already gave the go-ahead in February's student elections for a $16.98 yearly student fees increase to subsidize the fare-free busing. The University would cover 40 percent of the cost, and Chapel Hill and Carrboro would cover the other 60 percent.
Yeah, fare-free busing sounds great, but Chapel Hill Transit isn't ready for it yet.
The 2000 U.S. Census report shows that Chapel Hill's population has increased by 26 percent since 1990 and that Carrboro's population has increased by 45 percent. And that trend doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Have you ever tried to get on the U-bus on South Campus at 8:45 a.m.? It's not an easy thing to do. Maybe part of the reason for that is the U-bus is free.
No, people aren't just cruising around on the U-bus because it's free. But the fact that it's free means the U-bus is not a revenue producer, meaning no matter how many people ride the bus, it pulls in the same amount of money.
Fortunately, people who are riding the U-bus don't have to go very far, so they can always walk if they don't get on the bus. Plus, for the rest of the day, ridership is staggered, so it makes sense for the bus to remain free.
But the rest of Chapel Hill Transit's riders aren't so lucky.
Let's say you live on Airport Road. Would you rather have a free bus that comes every 45 minutes and stops running at 5 p.m. or one that costs 75 cents, comes every 15 minutes and stops running at 11 p.m?