CHITTENDEN COUNTY — Green Mountain Transit will collect fares again for its Chittenden County and LINK Express routes starting Jan. 2, 2024, instead of the previously planned July 1, 2023.
The postponing of fare collections is due to additional funding from the state, allowing GMT to make improvements to the boxes used to collect fares, broadening the type of payment it can receive to include Apple Pay and credit cards.
“When fare service restarts it will be with a single fare box system that will provide improved payment options, both in terms of how riders pay and how fast riders can pay when entering the bus,” a press release from GMT states.
Because the money for upgrades is coming from the state, GMT must assess its fare system to ensure it protects economically vulnerable riders and covers at least 10% of GMT’s operating costs.
“If we have to return to fare service, we want our riders to have better options,” said Clayton Clark, GMT general manager.
GMT must report back to the legislature on its plans in December 2023. It will begin receiving public comment on the fare service in June, and anticipates the plans to be finalized this fall.
The transition from an analog system that relied on cash and paper tickets to one that accepts digital payments will take time, and GMT anticipates that not all features will be implemented at the beginning.
In March 2020, GMT stopped collecting fares so passengers could enter the bus from the rear, where there is no fare collection box. This reduced close contact between drivers and passengers as a COVID-19 precaution.
Before the pandemic, GMT earned $2.5 million a year in fare revenue. GMT used funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to offset the loss of revenue through June 2022, and since July 2022 the State of Vermont has been offsetting the loss.
“We sincerely appreciate the financial support that allowed us to offer our service free of charge to the communities we service,” Clark said. “With pandemic relief funds running out, we need to return to our longstanding practice of having a portion of our operating expenses paid for by our riders.”
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