Raleigh has commissioned a private consultant to evaluate the free downtown circulator bus system.
The R-Line was created in 2009 to boost tourism and economic development, and the city pays $1 million per year to keep it running.
But riders of Raleigh's Capital Area Transit bus system say it's unfair that they have to pay fares on the separate system. Most CAT riders live below the poverty line and depend on the system for their commute. Raleigh will raise the $1 fare by $.50 next year.
Octavia Rainey of Raleigh's North Central Community Advisory Committee said the fare system puts an unjust financial burden on the city's poorest residents.
“You can't have two separate bus systems coming out of one budget. That's wrong,” Rainey said. “You can't treat your buses differently because of your ridership. That's wrong.”
City Councilwoman-at-Large Mary-Ann Baldwin is on the Board of Directors for the downtown alliance. She said Raleigh hasn't raised the bus fare in seven years out of sensitivity to families affected by the Recession. But Baldwin said fuel and operating costs are rising across the board, so big changes could be ahead.
“We recognized that not only do we need to look at it from a city bus standpoint, but we also need to look at it from a free bus standpoint. Is that really the best thing for us to do? And I think we're coming to the conclusion that the answer is no.”
Baldwin added that in addition to charging fares for the R-Line, the city will likely consider alterations to its route. The consultant’s report on the R-Line is due out this fall.