The committee will also look at a fare increase, which has not occurred since 2003.
Brown said that whenever fares are increased, ridership goes down.
“We had an increase in 1996, and it took us about five years to get back to the numbers we had before we raised the prices,” he said.
Legislator Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain), who chairs the Transportation Committee, said the challenge of keeping the bus service affordable is immense.
“A lot of people use it and need it, and this is a service that I feel we have to provide for our citizens,” he said.
With gas prices nearing $4 per gallon and beyond again and the ever-present concern about carbon emissions, public transportation is essential, McManus said, and the committee will do its best to come up with cost-saving measures.
Meetings, including public hearings, are likely to be held in the next few months to discuss the issue.
“There isn’t an avenue we won’t take a peek at because we don’t want to eliminate this service,” McManus said.
“It would be a tremendous hardship for a lot of people.”
‘BITE THE BULLET’
This year’s shortfall will be covered by the county’s fund balance, but McManus acknowledged that covering shortfalls from fund balance is probably not a good option.
“We are going to have to bite the bullet somehow,” he said.
“We may wind up combining some routes or eliminating some of the less efficient routes. We will have to revisit everything.”
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