Changes to Trans-Aid bus system in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Twice a week, O'ni Green gets picked up from her home in Winston-Salem where she catches a Trans-Aid ParaTransit bus to go to physical therapy.

Green has a broken foot and gets around in a power wheelchair.

"I can walk but not really long distances," Green said.

Green also has autism spectrum disorder and multiple sclerosis.

She's one of more than 4,000 people in the city who actively ride Trans-Aid buses.

The buses provide low-cost or free scheduled rides to seniors and the disabled and to those who qualify for Medicaid.

"It's easy access,” Green said. “Then, it's curbside so I don't really have to figure out a lot of things.”

But the bus system is about to undergo some changes.

"We really want those that are most in need to utilize the service," said Patrice Toney, budget and evaluations director for Winston-Salem.

As part of the city council's new budget which passed on Monday, bus fares will go from $0.50 to $1.

People on Medicaid who ride the bus for free will now have to pay unless they're going to the doctor.

Toney says the main goal of Trans-Aid is to provide rides for medical trips and basic needs.

But Toney says some riders weren't doing that.

"We want to just make sure the right people are utilizing the service," she said.

Toney says the changes were tough to make but says it's the only way to keep the program going with more people using it each year.

"The population is growing,” Toney said. “We really need to serve our senior and disabled people."

The changes won't affect riders like Green who use it for medical reasons.

"I think it's fair enough,” Greens said.

The changes are expected to go into effect this fall.

Toney says the revenue generated by the increased fare will go towards creating bus passes which will be distributed by community centers that help low-income families.

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