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SEAT to change fares starting in September

Norwich — The Southeast Area Transit District board of directors at its meeting Wednesday approved a new fare schedule for the bus service that will go into effect after Labor Day.

SEAT is proposing the changes to stabilize its fare structure, General Manager Michael Carroll said. It plans to slightly reduce cash fares and 10-ride passes to be more consistent with other transit districts, he said.

The cash fare for adults will decrease from $2 to $1.75, and from $1 to $0.85 for seniors and people with disabilities; 10-ride passes will decrease from $18 to $17.50, and from $9 to $8.50 for seniors and people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act/paratransit fares, as well as the on-demand service in Stonington, also will be reduced slightly.

Meanwhile, SEAT will raise period passes, such as 1-day unlimited passes or 7-day unlimited passes, from the discounted rates implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, though they will remain lower than pre-pandemic rates.

SEAT had eliminated all fares early in the pandemic, at the direction of the state, and then resumed fares last October, Carroll said. When resuming fares, the transit district reduced the cost of period passes "to reduce cash transactions on the bus, and offer our customers a break during these difficult financial times," SEAT said in a news release at the time.

SEAT management believes it is "time to adjust fares again to increase, but not return to pre-COVID rates" for the passes, according to a SEAT document.

Carroll said the rates for the passes will increase in September, but the transit district will continue to offer a small discount, compared to the pre-pandemic fare rates, “to encourage ridership/ease of boarding."

For example, one-day unlimited passes, which were $4 before the pandemic and then reduced to $3 during the pandemic, will be raised to $3.50 in September. Five-day unlimited passes, initially $20 and then reduced to $10 during the pandemic, will cost $14 starting in September. And 31-day unlimited passes, which once cost $50 and now cost $30, will be $40 starting in September.

SEAT also is introducing other changes, including "fare capping" on its mobile payment app.

That means, for example, if a person buys three 5-day passes within 31 days, the app would "convert" the passes to a 31-day pass, which is less expensive than three 5-day passes, so the customer would be charged less for the third pass, according to SEAT.

Carroll said that, while difficult to determine, the revenue impact from the changes is expected to be pretty much neutral. He said hopefully the changes will bump up ridership a bit more.

k.drelich@theday.com

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