ROCKINGHAM — Area of Richmond Transit won’t charge riders a fare for the next 30 days and has asked the public to only use them for essential rides in an effort to reduce the exchange of germs between, the transportation service announced Monday.
Director Neel Peacock said the decision to not charge a fare was made, in part, because “one of the dirtiest things out there is cash.” He said that the money ART brings in passes through at least five employees’ hands before going to the bank, not to mention the people that had touched the money prior.
“For the safety of our riders and drivers we’re going fare free,” Peacock said. “Everyone’s going to fall on financial hard times here … It’s to help ease the burden on those who use our services.”
No fares will be charged beginning at 4 a.m., Tuesday March 31, when ART’s vans start running. At the end of 30 days, the Transit Board will reevaluate whether to extend the no-fare policy, according to Peacock.
Peacock said ART will be able to sustain this loss of funds through the federal CARES Act, based on what he’s been told by Department of Transportation officials. While he has “no clue” when those funds will become available, they will be backdated to address this period of reduced ridership and no fares.
“It’s ‘wait and see,’” Peacock said of the CARES funds. “We’re doing it in good faith at this point and taking the state and the federal government at their word.”
He said ART is down to about 40 rides per day due to people heeding Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-home order. ART hasn’t mandated any reduction in services — the reduction has come “naturally,” according to Peacock.
ART has used its resources to feed senior citizens following the closing of congregate meal sites in order to promote social distancing. The congregate meal sites provide healthy meals and social interaction for seniors at no cost. ART is delivering these meals to about 14 seniors who were taking advantage of the sites, and next week will begin delivering five days-worth of lunches to the seniors.
“We’re just doing what we can while we can for our neighbors,” Peacock said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.