CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Metro bus system is at a crossroads as it faces a $14.5 million budget deficit heading into the new year.
That's a combination of a projected $8.6 million operating deficit, and a projected $5.9 million capital deficit.
To bring in more revenue the board is now considering increasing bus fares. A bus ticket can cost up to $3 one way. If the fare increase is approved, 15 cents would be added to each ticket.
For Leyxus Warren, the Metro is a lifeline for getting around the city.
"I got to get to my job to pay the bills," she said.
Warren and her baby live on a tight budget, so scraping up more money for a bus ticket is something that worries her.
"I already pay $2.65," she said.
That fee is just for one ride for half of her commute. She said she takes at least four buses a day spending up to $50 a month.
If the fares go up, she said she may have to cut out other necessities.
"It would be horrible, but I guess I would have to deal with it," said Warren.
She and a million others who rely on Metro would have to make some tough choices.
The External Affairs Director for Metro said they have to make changes to bring in more revenue.
"If more funding opportunities are not presented we're looking at cuts and service cuts and other adjustments to our system. That would negatively affect our customers' ability to get to work, school and healthcare," said Jones.
Now the SORTA Board is proposing a 15 cent fare increase, which would bring in about $600,000 a year.
"This increase would potentially allow us to maintain our fleet better and purchase newer buses," said Jones.
There hasn't been a fare increase since 2009. With increased operating costs, a reduction in funding plus ridership down 35 percent, Metro is driving deep into the red.
"Metro is looking at significant budget deficits and over the next 10 years we're looking at up to 255 million dollars in deficits," said Jones.
The SORTA Board is hoping to turn that around by restructuring the routes and raising fees.
While riders don't like paying more, some said they will to support the transit system.
"Ugh, it's a necessary evil. Increased prices are a necessary evil if you want to continue to have the services that we need," said Bryn Hastings, a UC student who rides the bus every day.
"I think we should be putting more money into having a functioning public transit system because that's one of the things that defines a great city in America," said Hastings.
If the fares do increase Warren said she'll make some changes as well.
"I might have to go ahead and go for my license," she said.
In the next few months the SORTA Board and the City Council will review public feedback on the proposed fare increase then they will make a decision.
If it is approved the change will go into effect June 3, 2018