Bus fare inside Ashland will rise June 30 from $1 to $2 after the Ashland City Council eliminated a fare subsidy that brought down rates but didn't significantly increase ridership.

Bus fare inside Ashland will rise June 30 from $1 to $2 after the Ashland City Council eliminated a fare subsidy that brought down rates but didn't significantly increase ridership.

The council voted earlier this month to discontinue a city subsidy of Rogue Valley Transportation District bus fare that has cost the city of Ashland $610,550 since July 2009. "We spent a lot of money to try and boost ridership," said City Councilman Greg Lemhouse.

For years, Ashland has subsidized bus fares inside town to bring down costs for riders. But the subsidies never pushed ridership to the sky-high levels Ashland experienced earlier in the 2000s when bus rides in town were free. Annual bus ridership hit about 150,000 rides in 2006, according to city documents.

Ashland had to discontinue the free fare program after RVTD sought a big increase in subsidy funding from the city to keep free rides in town.

With the $1 subsidized fares, bus use never topped 40,000 rides through 2011, according to city documents.

In April of this year, RVTD on its own extended weekday operating hours and added Saturday service after receiving outside grant funding.

Since the change, bus ridership has gone up 16 percent valleywide, while jumping 22.5 percent in Ashland, according to city staff. Many Ashlanders long had advocated extended weekday hours and weekend service to help employees, Southern Oregon University students, senior citizens and others get around.

To offset the financial impact of the coming $2 fare, the City Council increased city spending on free bus passes from $10,000 to $33,000.

The Parks and Recreation Department's Senior Center, 1699 Homes Ave., distributes free bus passes to low-income seniors who are 62 and older. Call 541-488-5342 for information.

The Senior Center also distributes bus passes to students via Ashland High School and Ashland Middle School. The center is working on details to distribute free bus passes to students during the summer.

South Valley Community Human Services, 1658 Ashland St., will distribute free bus passes to low-income residents between the ages of 18 and 61. For information, call 541-482-2041.

Throughout the valley, RVTD has lower bus fare for people age 62 and older, youths 10 to 17 years old, disabled people and Medicare card-holders. The reduced fare is $1, half the amount of the regular $2 fare.

Children to age 9 ride free in the valley with a responsible, fare-paying adult.

For more information on bus service, see www.rvtd.org.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.