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Bus fare hikes proposed for Raleigh, Triangle Transit

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If you're traveling on Raleigh's bus system, CAT, or via Triangle Transit throughout the region, you might need to shake those couch cushions for more loose change.

Triangle Transit, the regional bus system, and Capital Area Transit, which serves Raleigh, are proposing fare hikes that, if approved, would go into effect next year and in 2015.

No fare hikes are planned for Durham's DATA system; all Chapel Hill buses are fare-free and partially subsidized by UNC-Chapel Hill student fees. Voters in Durham and Orange counties approved a half-cent sales tax last year for commuter rail and Durham's expanded bus plan.

As expected, fare hikes are unpopular. They especially affect low-income riders, for whom even a 25-cent increase is substantial.

Raleigh and Triangle Transit officials are citing an increase in operational costs that customer fares aren't covering as a reason for the proposed fare hikes. This drives home the point that buses should not be only for the poor. More middle- and upper-class ridership could help keep fares in line.

If you do the math, it costs roughly $3.30 for a gallon of gas. If you drive between Raleigh to Durham in a well-maintained 2003 Honda Civic that gets 32 miles to the gallon, that's $6.60 for the trip, not including the wear on the car.

Even with the price increase, riding an express route still saves 60 cents cents in gas alone.

But here's the bad news (full disclosure: I'm a bus rider): Once a commuter gets to Raleigh or Durham and needs to navigate the city, it's nearly impossible, even with extra routes, to get somewhere easily and on time. Perhaps the extra money could be devoted to making the city systems more navigable.

This is how the fare increases could affect you:

• In Raleigh, the $1 fare for the CAT buses would increase to $1.25 next year, and eventually to $1.50 in 2015.

• Triangle Transit prices for regular routes rise from $2 a trip to $2.25, with a 50-cent hike for express routes, from $2.50 to $3.

Correction: The photo credit was incorrect in print.

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