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Middletown considers extending free bus fares through 2022

Butler County Metro Bus
Posted at 10:51 AM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 14:36:01-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Those who ride on the Middletown Transit System may continue paying no fares if City Council approves an ordinance at its next meeting.

City Manager Jim Palenick said that Middletown could offset the lost fares by utilizing CARES act funding and grants during Tuesday night's meeting. He said fare revenue typically is about 6% of the transit system's annual operating budget.

MTS operates in cooperation with Butler County Regional Transit Authority and the BCRTS board of trustees has approved going to zero fares for fixed routes through 2024.

Middletown council passed legislation in December 2020 to allow the bus system to operate in 2021 without collecting fares. It will vote on extending the ordinance one year on Sept. 21.

Palenick called receiving funds from the CARES Act and not charging riders a "windfall for the city."

Because of the federal funding, he said, "there's no need to charge fares."

Mayor Nicole Condrey asked Palenick about the typical user of the bus system. He said they're "transit dependent," and they ride the bus to work, medical appointments and retail stores.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, MTS implemented a fare-less system to reduce obligations for citizens experiencing financial hardships and promoting safety by limiting contact with drivers and patrons and limiting touching fares necessary for counting fare box receipts, according to city officials.

Condrey also expressed concern over the homeless riding the buses during the winter months and turning them into mobile "homeless shelters." Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen said the bus system has operational policies, so that won't happen.

This story was originally published by WCPO 9 News partner, the Journal-News.