Athens Transit has become too reliant on University of Georgia students and employees whose fares are subsidized while not doing enough to attract other kinds of riders, Smith said.
He argues that many buses are not filled to capacity, so increased ridership could fill the budget gap created by dropping fares to make them more affordable.
"We feel like (lowering fares) could jump-start ridership," Smith said.
But few additional people would hop on a bus for $1.25 as opposed to the current $1.50 adult fare, Athens Transit Director Butch McDuffie said.
"The only way to increase ridership is to make your service more frequent and more available," McDuffie said. The commission has added night and Saturday service in recent years, but in the recession lacks the money to make additional improvements.
I tend to agree with Mr. McDuffie on this. How does Mr. Smith know that lowering fares would increase ridership? Has he conducted any surveys of prospective riders? If not, he should get in touch with UGA's social science departments - their students can help him do this.
An aside: What seems to increase ridership most acutely is a spike in gas prices. Until buses are as convenient to use as private automobiles (i.e. more frequent and available service), many people will only utilize transit when they have to.
Any other thoughts on this?