Fredericksburg Regional Transit bus service in Caroline County will end June 20 after supervisors voted this week to discontinue funding the service because of low ridership.
Last February, the board agreed to adopt a new route recommended by the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization as the result of a study on bus service in the county.
The study predicted that the new route would generate 11,500 rides per year, compared with 7,400 for the old route. Officials said they did not have specific ridership numbers for the new route, but supervisors decided the change did not generate enough interest to continue funding it.
They voted 3–2 Tuesday to end the county’s financial support for the service and use the $102,671 for other purposes.
Caroline joined the regional bus service in 2002. FRED also serves Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.
Representatives of the Fredericksburg Green Party held signs at the public hearing to protest eliminating the FRED routes in Caroline.
Joanna Berger of Fredericksburg said that many use the bus service to get to the homeless shelters and food banks. “We do want people in Caroline to be able to make it to our meal programs and shelters,” she said. “The surrounding counties do not have centers, so they have to come to the City of Fredericksburg for their resources and when they don’t have the ability to get there, the bus is very important to them.”
Two county residents spoke in support of the transportation service.
Kenneth Fickes said that he has relied on FRED transportation to get to medical facilities and grocery stores. He has a physical handicap that prevents him from driving.
Caroline Supervisor Floyd Thomas said that last year, the board discussed the low ridership concerns with FRED. The supervisors asked that the schedule and routes be modified for people to get to local jobs across the county.
Director of FRED Transportation Wendy Kimball spoke during the public hearing, noting that the bus service added a stop at the VRE commuter station and a pickup location in Ladysmith.
“You failed us,” said Thomas. “Because VRE was not part of the issue at all. I did not support FRED for commuter operations. People that work in D.C. have cars to get to the commuter lots in Fredericksburg. I’m supporting the people who don’t have cars that are stuck trying to be productive but can’t get to their jobs because of transportation.”
Kimball said the FRED staff stepped up marketing efforts for the service in Caroline in the fall and winter, mailing flyers to households in the county, dropping off brochures at county buildings, grocery stores and the YMCA.