Calling it a "tough decision," Richmond City Council on Monday night voted to raise fares and cut service hours for disabled riders on the GRTC's CARE system, despite opposition from many disabled Richmonders attending the meeting.
The rate hike, to take effect on January 5, 2014, will raise bus fares for regular CARE service from $2.50 to $3, each way. Fares for the extended CARE routes outside the city, like to Henrico, will increase to $6.00 one-way. Hours for this service are cut to 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday only.
GRTC officials have pointed out they are working with an $800,000 budget shortfall, and have slashed every part of the budget they could, except the CARE service, at least until now. Despite this, opponents pleaded with City Council to not approve the Fare hikes, saying they were trying to support themselves and not rely on the system.
The rate increase does make it possible for CARE riders to use regular city buses for free. GRTC says all city buses are wheelchair accessible. Transportation leaders also say that Medicaid offers free trips.
Even with this information, opponents still voiced opposition, saying they would lose their jobs, be unable to go to church on Sundays, miss doctor's appointments and a number of other things.
City Council debated the rate hike for over an hour, and the decision was a difficult one to make. It finally ended with a vote of six in favor and three against the rate hike. The disabled opponents present at the meeting have vowed they will not give up the fight.