GAINESVILLE - With the new year, the City of Gainesville is about to begin a fare and route assessment study and make needed changes in the city's Red Rabbit transit program.
At its Thursday work session, Gainesville City Council agreed that they wanted to see increasing ridership on the Red Rabbit. However, revenue generation from the system may not be essential to its continued operation, according to at least one council member.
The fares to ride the Red Rabbit had recently been increased, which instead of bringing in more revenue, decreased ridership significantly.
"The ridership dropped so drastically after we had increased fares that we felt the need to do something drastic to recover," said Community Service Center Director Philippa Lewis-Moss.
"One, we wanted to honor those people who had ridden the system even when those fares increased, and two, we wanted to do something that would be an attraction to the general public to also get on the bus."
For now, fares for the elderly and disabled are free. The fare may go back to its original price of 50 cents, but a "fair fare" is still a topic of discussion. Some members of the council wanted to drop the fares altogether and encourage public service, while others felt that everyone needed to pay something, even if it was just a nickel.
Myrtle Figureas was in favor of free rides for elderly and disabled. "I would like for our council not to be 'that' governmental entity who looks down on folks for their status in society," said Figureas.
"To me, these [elderly and disabled] people are people and human beings too. No matter what any other government does, I would not like for Gainesville City Council to be the one to take away from the people who are the most vulnerable in our society and who need the help."
Mayor Danny Dunagan disagreed with the free fares, saying that he felt everyone needed to pay a little something, but did not elaborate further.
The council and the team working on the public transportation are also discussing the routes for the Rabbit.
"We're trying to make route changes by July, so it will coordinate with the beginning of the school year," said Lewis-Moss.
Council to vote on changes to animal ordinance
City Council will vote on an amendment to the city's existing Animal Control law by redefining what constitutes a "dangerous animal."
Currently, the aggressive animal ordinance states that an animal that attacks a person is aggressive, but does not clarifying if the animal is aggressive if it attacks another animal.
"Right now, for the city of Gainesville, an animal can only be classified as potentially dangerous or dangerous if the animal has attacked humans," said Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard.
"We would like to more closely mirror Hall County and redefine it to say if it is an animal attacking a human, or an animal attacking another domesticated animal, it could be classified as dangerous or a potentially dangerous animal."
Sheppard also said that since the city contracts with Hall County Animal Control, the ordinances needed to be similar to prevent confusion and to assist in proper handling of a potentially aggressive animal.