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Chapel Hill, Carrboro Consider Fare-Free Bus Service To Increase Ridership

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CHAPEL HILL — The towns ofChapel Hilland Carrboro want to get people out of their cars and onto buses.

Kyle Kneisl rides a bus from home to theUNC campusevery day. He says it is easier to ride the bus than to drive.

"Usually you have to park fairly far away, if you're lucky enough to get a spot," Kneisl says. "If not, then you can park in a community lot for a fee, but it's fairly unpleasant, and I'm glad there is a bus."

More than 15,000 people board buses in Chapel Hill and Carrboro each day, making the bus system the busiest in the state. Officials from UNC and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro want to add even more passengers by making it free.

"From a community standpoint, it means fewer cars on the street, less pollution in the air, and fewer people hunting for parking spaces downtown and on campus," says Scott McClellan ofChapel Hill Transit.

One disadvantage of the proposed plan is what it could cost. The bus system collects $1.6 million a year from fares. The university and the towns involved would have to kick in the money to make a fare-free system work.

Currently, it costs 75 cents to ride the bus, but some people do not want to get out of their cars even if they are offered a free ride.

"Personally, I don't think I would because I live close enough to where I don't think about it," says UNC student John Martin.

Transit experts believe free fares could boost ridership by five or ten percent.

UNC and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will make a decision about the fare-free service by June. If the service is approved, the free rides would start in July.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Jim Young, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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