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LATS set to increase fares

Lawton_As fuel costs rise, more Texomans are riding the bus, and the increase in cost is affecting more than riders.  The Lawton Area Transit System (LATS) says that for the first time since beginning operations in 2002, it is being forced to consider a fare hike.  The proposed hike would bring the cost of a one-way ticket up to $1.25 for adults, and 75-cents for kids.  The fare increase proposal comes as no surprise to the LATS manager or its riders.

With increased ridership, operation costs, and no sign of a substantial dip in fuel costs, LATS is now considering what it says is a long overdue fare increase.  LATS General Manager Steve Scherrer says he doesn't think ridership will decrease if the price per trip goes up - and neither do some riders.  "I think it's worth it because the people who work out here, and the buses, and the upkeep and everything...they need the money to keep everything running smooth," said LATS passenger, Mark.  Scherrer says it's a frugal alternative to driving a car.  "It's so costly to fill your car up, pay those insurance bills, pay those car payments that a lot of people are switching," he said.  "We had a 29% rider increase last month."

Following an evaluation of several bus systems - both regionally and across the country - Scherrer says he found that LATS was below the curve when it came to other transit systems' fare rates.  "I'm from Chicago, and we pay $1.50 - $1.75, plus we pay and extra quarter for transfer - so this is great," said LATS passenger, Phyllis Harris.  

LATS riders say that even if the increase is approved, they will continue to take advantage of Lawton's transit system.  "I'll be riding it until I get me a vehicle myself," said Leon Robinson.  "You can't beat it for air conditioning, and everything."

LATS cannot increase fares without approval from the Lawton City Council.  A public hearing on the proposal is set for the September 9 council meeting.  If approved, it would go into affect on October 1, 2008.  Count on 7News to tell you what happens.

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