By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Passengers riding Norman’s public buses may be paying more in the near future. A fare increase is under consideration for the Cleveland Area Rapid Transit system operated by the University of Oklahoma.
Better known as CART, the public transportation system serves students, the elderly, persons with disabilities, commuters and football fans, among others.
This would be the first fare increase in 18 years, OU Parking and Transportation Services Director Doug Meyers told Norman city leaders Monday. Meyers said a public forum on the proposed fare increase will be scheduled in the near future.
Currently, regular fixed route bus fare is 50 cents per passenger. The proposal would increase that fare to 75 cents and would increase the Sooner Express Route bus fare from $2.25 to $3.
Special patron fares would increase from 25 cents to 35 cents for regular routes, from $10 to $12.50 for monthly unlimited regular and from $1.10 to $1.50 for Sooner Express.
Regular fixed route unlimited fares and unlimited 30-day Sooner Express fares would remain at $25 and $50, respectively.
The largest fare increase proposed is for CARTaccess. Zone 1 fares would increase from $1 to $1.50, Zone 2 from $2.50 to $3.75 and a one-way trip (same day urgent) from $2.50 to $3.75. CARTaccess is the ADA/paratransit service operated by CART to provide origin-to-destination service for approved passengers.
Most CART funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration, the University of Oklahoma and the city of Norman. CART also makes use of grants and other funding programs where possible. Last year, the Norman Regional Health System also contributed to CART funding.
CART needs about $650,000 in annual operating costs due to aging buses. Meyers said vehicle replacement is high on the priority list and those vehicles come with a price tag around $400,000 each. About 37 percent of the fleet is at its maximum life, and another 31 percent will reach that point soon, he said.
There are 36 vehicles, including 23 city transit buses and 13 paratransit vans. That fleet includes 16 vehicles fueled by CNG and 20 with biodiesel. CART’s four support vehicles are fueled with ethanol.
Last year, CART served 1,010,584 passengers on its regular, fixed route. CARTaccess transported 32,677 elderly and disabled passengers. CART takes 120 commuters to and from work in Oklahoma City each day and has 10 fixed routes in and around Norman.
While costs vary per route and per customer, fixed route annual costs total $2,161,541 to serve 1,020,584 passengers at an average cost of $2.12 per passenger.
The highest per customer cost for a fixed route is the west Norman link, which serves 6,273 passengers, for an average cost of $40.99 per person.
CARTaccess serves 32,677 passengers at an annual cost of $1,093,170, or $33.45 per customer.