More riding Baldwin public transportation as fuel costs increase

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/18/22

BAY MINETTE — Baldwin County officials are monitoring the rising number of people using the county's transportation system as the cost of fuel increases.

At the County Commission work …

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More riding Baldwin public transportation as fuel costs increase

Posted

BAY MINETTE — Baldwin County officials are monitoring the rising number of people using the county's transportation system as the cost of fuel increases.

At the County Commission work session Monday, March 14, commissioners asked officials with the Baldwin Rural Area Transportation Service to monitor increases in riders as fuel costs rise and determine how the change could affect expenses.

Chairman Jeb Ball said more demand on BRATS could increase system expenses.

"People are really taking advantage of our BRATS system and I found out that the average cost, one way, was $3 to $5," Ball said. "I don't think we can absorb this with the fuel costs rising as well."

Ann Simpson, BRATS director, said the number of people using the system has been increasing for several months, before the cost of gasoline began to rise. She said the service has been working to make the system more accessible to county residents and the number of riders has gone up.

She said BRATS now makes about 350 trips a day.

Simpson said an increase in fares would also not mean a direct increase in revenue. More revenue could mean less federal transportation funding.

"There are several things to consider," she said. "One is, the way our grant structure works, is we deduct the fare box, the fare revenue, from our operations cost and then there is a 50-50 split after that. So, any fare increase, we're not going to recoup all of that. If you have 20% increase, you're only going to see 10% of that."

She said a 20% increase in fares would bring in about $15,000 a year.

Simpson said many riders are also use the service to get medical treatments and have limited incomes.

"Many of our passengers utilize our services for dialysis, so they're going three days a week and, you're right, a $4-trip is very low, but that's one-way, so that's $8 a day. So, for them, it can be quite expensive," Simpson said.

Simpson said she is checking fares with other transportation services in southern Alabama to see how BRATS rates compare to similar systems.

Ball asked if the county could provide discounts for people using the buses for medical needs as opposed to other purposes, such as going to work.

County Attorney Brad Hicks said BRATS gets some funding from federal grants. Any changes in rate structures would have to be studied to be sure the changes fit the grant requirements, he said.
Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said BRATS officials should monitor increases in the number of riders and how the changes affect costs.

Commissioner Joe Davis said that while the number of riders has increased, the number of bus trips has not always gone up.

"If a bus holds 15 and we've been having four take the trip and now we're having eight take the trip, that's better," he said.

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