Some favor, some oppose Valley Metro bus rate increases

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke Valley community speaks out Thursday night about proposed rate increases and changes to the Valley Metro System.

The public hearing was hosted by the Greater Roanoke Transit Company board of directors and Valley Metro, to see how bus riders feel about price increases. Officials say these increases will help keep the bus system running longer.

"Pretty much all the other bus systems around the state of Virginia are charging more than what we charge, at this point," said Bill Bestpitch, president of the Greater Roanoke Transit Company. "We just have to keep up with the increased costs over the years of operating the system."

The metro fare is currently $1.50. Valley Metro is proposing to raise the rate to $1.75. The STAR fare could go from $3 up to $3.50.

While some Roanoke Valley residents at the hearing were openly against the price increases, others supported them, as long as the money is used to better the transit system. 

"As Roanoke grows, I anticipate us needing more than we already have," said Fred Donher, a Roanoke Valley resident who has been riding the Valley Metro for 40 years. "I would like to see, first of all, a future for our public transit and some progress made in that coming future." 

A popular topic during the hearing was the RADAR transit system, whose services are aimed at physically disabled, mentally disabled, and transportation disadvantaged individuals, according to their website. The transit board has discussed limiting STAR passes to 52 trips per month. Many RADAR riders said that number was too low and that more needs to be done to help disabled and handicapped riders.

"I work with people with disabilities, and many of them have had struggles getting rides late at night and where they need to go if they live in different places, like Roanoke County," said Nathan Auldridge, Salem City resident. "It's very difficult for them to go where they need to go."

Other speakers encouraged the board to consider Sunday service, extended hours at night and buses that run every half-hour.