NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A review of Hampton Roads Transit's finances found if leaders don't make changes the Hampton Roads Transit system could be broke in two years.
CEO and president of HRT William Harrell said the company has made a lot of staff changes in their financial office. Harrell requested a review of the agency's finances to get a fresh look at the agency's handling of money.
The review, conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, showed HRT needs to make major changes to increase revenue, including increasing fares.
Ridership is up on HRT buses and the light rail. However, the cost of running the agency also increased. The review also showed the agency's expenses outpace their ticket sales.
If this trend continues, the panel said HRT could go broke.
"We have to be come more creative in terms of attracting investments, and increasing advertisements, and also finding state funding, as part of the governor and General Assembly's recent action with the transportation bill," Harrell said.
The panel also recommended HRT find new ways to save money, be more efficient, and increase revenue, which could mean higher fares.
"Our customers have to contribute more, just as taxpayers have to contribute more," Harrell said.
Harrell said price increases are long overdue.
The last time the agency increased prices was 1999. HRT will also look to change the 365Go program, which offers students and participating employees free rides. Colleges and companies involved in it pay HRT a contracted amount to participate in the program.
"I think it's going to be important to renegotiate those contacts," Harrell said. "If we can't do that, they will have to buy normal passes."
College students like Jacob Kanu say the 365Go program allows them to save money.
"It reduces my finances. It helps me save money for books. I hope HRT does not take this opportunity away from us," Kanu, a Norfolk State student told WAVY.com.
Overall, Harrell said the review will set the course for HRT's future final destination.
"The bottom line is, in two years, we will have a balanced budget," Harrell said. "We will not be in the red. I can assure you that."
HRT customers told WAVY.com they feel HRT fares are all ready too high and any increase would put them in a bind.
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