Free rides on Owen Sound city buses are coming to an end next month.
City council approved a staff recommendation at its meeting Monday to reinstate transit fares effective June 15. Owen Sound had waived fares in March in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to help reduce the financial burden on residents who rely on the service and to ensure bus drivers weren't handling money.
Owen Sound's Director of Public Works and Engineering Dennis Kefalas says city now has adequate safety procedures in place both on buses to protect drivers and at the Owen Sound Transit Terminal.
"Another aspect that we're looking at is people just riding the bus for something to do," Kefalas says. "Because we're not charging fares, people are getting on the bus and not just using it for essential travel. We're hoping that by re-instating the fares, those riding the bus just because it's free will probably stop and create seats for those who really need it."
Kefalas says waiving fares on city buses resulted in a decline in revenue of about $40,000 through the end of April. Prior to the pandemic, transit fare revenue for the city was around $27,000 per month.
Kefalas notes the city's revenue from public transit will continue to be impacted even with the return of fares, as physical distancing rules remain in place that limit the amount of riders per bus to six.
"We think most people will continue to be cautious and only take a bus when they need it, and as such ridership will be down and revenues will be down," he says.
The cost of a bus fare in Owen Sound is $2.50.