While Fulton County Transit Authority has made few changes — operational or otherwise — in its 37 years of “going and coming your way,” a significant change will happen at FCTA on April 1 when rates will be raised for the first time in more than 20 years.
“Although we’ve been very fortunate with federal funding over the last year throughout the (COVID-19) pandemic, we have to look to the future,” explained FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton. “We know someday this will end. The money we’ve been able to procure through grants will go away.”
Etherton said COVID-19 wasn’t the start of a conversation about raising rates. “We actually began discussions on raising rates a year before the pandemic. The pandemic virtually ended the discussions and the Board of Directors postponed making the decision.”
A public hearing that was originally scheduled in the midst of the statewide closure in March due to COVID-19 was postponed until Oct. 27 and held via Zoom.
“We decided then to move ahead with the rate increase,” Etherton said. “We can’t balance our budget off of grant dollars. We have to have a host of ways to bring in revenue to fund our match of the grants.”
During a special called meeting via Zoom on Dec. 3, Etherton requested guidance from the FCTA Board of Directors on moving forward with the rate increase. Mike Gunn made a motion to go ahead with the rate increase and gave an April 1, 2021, date for the increase to begin. Sandy Bellew seconded the motion, and the motion was approved by the board.
Proceeds from rates are actually a small portion of FCTA’s overall revenue, Etherton explained.
“We looked at this from the avenue of trying to simplify our rates, first of all, and become more user friendly,” he said. “There are winners and losers in this rate increase. Some will have a cheaper rate and some will have a little bit higher rate. We need to be balanced and fair.”
Included in the rate increase are some new rides with set amounts that were not available in the past.
“We’ve added some areas in the rates that I think we were missing rides on and, honestly, where rates were too high when we transported clients to these areas,” Etherton said. “Now it’s on a more economical rate.”
The Ride to Work program, the latest addition to the FCTA operations, has been updated to include more offerings, too, with a cross-county fare.
The overall rate increase will simply help keep FCTA “going and coming your way.”
“At the end of the day, we haven’t raised our rates in over 20 years except for a small tweak here and there,” Etherton emphasized. “For us to be sustainable in the future, this is a small part of one of many things that we have to do.”