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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Wednesday night members of the Metropolitan Transit Commission were told that CATS has a $3.6 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year. They were then told a lot of options for dealing with it.
CATS says either one-way bus and light rail fares will have to be raised by a quarter, or service will have to be cut back. Local leaders could also decide to do a combination fare raise/service cutback.
Charlotte Area Transit has been suffering financially for several years thanks to the poor economy. CATS depends on money from Mecklenburg's half-percent transit tax to make its budget, but with people buying less that means less money coming in.
CATS says the amount of sales tax money it's taking in is at 2005 levels, even though Mecklenburg has grown in population since then.
If fares are raised, a regular one-way ticket would go from $1.50 to $1.75. CATS last raised fares two years ago, from $1.30 to $1.50 due to high gas prices. The year before that they went up 10 cents.
CATS is also talking about changing the services it offers senior citizens and people with disabilities in order to save money. Officials say they will still serve those groups' needs, however.
The sales tax troubles have also helped push back CATS's long term plans. The opening of the northeast light rail extension to University City was originally supposed to happen around 2013. Now it will be 2019 at the earliest.
Meanwhile the north commuter rail line from uptown to Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and possibly Southern Iredell is in jeopardy of not happening at all. Right now there's no money to pay for it, and just last week local leaders learned it won't be getting any federal stimulus money. CATS is still moving ahead with preliminary plans for that line.