City council public hearing could result in increase in para-transit fare

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COLUMBIA - An increase in para-transit fare could be possible after Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Sandra Spencer says that if she has a doctor appointment or needs to do shopping that is not nearby, she uses Columbia's para-transit services. 

Para-transit is a minibus that provides door-to-door service for Columbia citizens who are ADA-eligible.

Currently the fare to ride the para-transit system is $2 per ride. According to a city council memo there will be a hearing Tuesday evening to consider increasing the price to $3 per ride. 

Spencer says she has used para-transit off and on for three years. 

"It's pretty expensive because most of us are on disability--it's not very much per month...to come up with an extra $4 to go to the doctor is a lot," Spencer said. 

According to the city memo, the Federal Transit Administration has regulations in place that state that ADA-compliant transportation may not exceed double the price of regular public transportation fare. 

Columbia's ADA coordinator Adam Kruse says that the proposal to raise the para-transit fare is consistent with those regulations. 

What was once a $4 ride for people like Spencer could become a $6 ride to go to and from the doctor. 

The city is proposing this change because of the $57,000 in revenue it could bring to Columbia.

Chair of Columbia Commission on Human Rights Andrea Waner says that there should be other ways to balance the city's budget than to increase the cost of those who are in need of the service. 

"Mobility is something that a lot of people take for granted, being able to utilize the services that the city has is really important--we shouldn't be putting an additional burden on people who just want to get around in their city," Waner said. 

The ordinance for the fare change would be in effect June 1, 2019 if it is passed by city council. 

Spencer says if it is passed those struggling to pay for it now might not be able to go to the doctor or get the therapy they need as often as they need it. 

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