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Photos by Joe Wilhelm Jr. - Ed Burr presided over his first meeting as Jacksonville Transportation Authority chairman Thursday.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 27, 201212:00 PM EST

JTA rolls out STAR Cards, passes new ADA fares

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is preparing to launch its electronic payment system, the STAR Card system, and the board approved a modified Americans with Disabilities Act fare structure Thursday.

“We are prepared to go live with our electronic payment system, STAR Card Jan. 30,” said Clinton Forbes, JTA mass transit director.

“All the buses in our fleet have the new fare boxes,” he said.

Forbes said that JTA distributed more than 4,400 senior and reduced STAR Cards since the beginning of January. JTA began a soft launch of the program Monday and has been working through some “small issues” that are being resolved leading up to the official launch next Monday.

“We will have folks on the ground beginning next week to ensure that we hold our customers’ hand through this implementation process,” said Forbes. “At every ticket vending machine there will be at least two people assisting our customers with this new technology.”

The board also discussed the modification of its ADA fare structure. Development of the structure involved four key components: market research and peer analysis, review of federal guidelines in terms of pricing for ADA, public input and input from the board of directors.

JTA held two public hearings in November and December and hosted about 30 public outreach events about the fare structure. JTA also held two meetings with the Mayor’s Disability Council.

“Federal ADA law limits transit agencies to charging no more than twice the base fare of their conventional transit mode,” said Forbes.

“Our recommendation was to go from zone fares averaging $1.25-$1.50 to $3.”

Forbes proposed that the transition from zone fares to the flat rate of twice the base fare, $1.50, take effect over three years.

The fare will be $2 starting April 30. It will rise to $2.50 on April 30, 2013, and $3 beginning April 30, 2014.

“To mitigate a sharp increase, we took this phased approach,” said Forbes.

While the board recognized the need to increase fees in the face of rising costs, some board members suggested JTA look at another program to raise revenue.

“I would support what staff is recommending, but what I think is a shortcoming about what we are doing is what I said at the last meeting. I just turned 60 and I can ride the bus for free. I don’t like that,” said board member Cleve Warren.

Board member Donna Harper, 61, supported Warren’s objection to people 60 and older riding the bus for free.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the new ADA fare structure, with Warren the dissenting vote.

“If there is one point that is a point of aggravation for the public it’s the senior ride free program, like I’m subsidizing that senior. That’s a legitimate point,” said Chairman Ed Burr, who presided over his first board meeting.

“We don’t have to wait until the next time we look at fare increases to address what we are going to do with seniors,” he said.

• The board approved bus wrap advertising for Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. One bus will feature the advertising for a 20-week period for a fee of $20,000. JTA will receive 60 percent of the net proceeds from the fee.

• JTA donated a surplus bus to JEA, which will use the bus to provide information to its customers about conservation and other issues.

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