KAT has announced a return to charging fares, but with a new, temporary reduced fare structure that provides COVID recovery and relief from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The new temporary fare structure, effective on Monday, February 1, 2021, is intended not only to provide some economic relief, but to also streamline passenger boardings, making them faster and limiting interactions between bus operators and passengers for improved safety. The base fare will change from the previous fare of $1.50 down to $1.00. Seniors, passengers with disabilities, and students K-12 (SDS) will have a base fare of $0.50 (previously $0.75).
With this new fare structure, 7-day passes and transfer passes are eliminated.
“This new fare structure will help provide relief to working families as they recover from the economic challenges of the pandemic,” says Isaac Thorne, Director of Transit for the City of Knoxville. “We have been very fortunate to have the support of the City of Knoxville along with federal COVID relief funding which allowed for us to operate fare-free, improving safety and reducing close interactions on our buses. With the new streamlined temporary fare structure, we hope to continue operating safely while re-implementing our fare system.”
The pandemic has created multiple challenges for transit: while providing trips for essential workers, KAT also had to limit seating on buses for better social distancing, which reduced capacity. Fare-free service has meant more people riding more often, and has too often resulted in buses having to leave behind those going to jobs and other locations due to the half-capacity requirement. In addition, a reduced workforce due to COVID has further reduced KAT’s capabilities, forcing KAT to operate on reduced service levels, further challenging those essential workers using the service.
“It’s been the perfect storm,” says Thorne. “But, we are hopeful that this new fare structure, along with promising news of the vaccine will begin to bring KAT back to a more normal operating system.”
For the time being, KAT continues current safety protocols of providing masks and hand sanitizer on all vehicles, performing regular cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles, and reminding passengers of CDC safety recommendations.
KAT hopes to keep the new temporary fare structure in place for at least six months.