CARTA Increases Its Operating Budget By 8.5 Percent

  • Friday, June 21, 2024
  • Hannah Campbell

The CARTA Board of Directors voted to approve a $30 million operating budget and a separate capital budget for fiscal year 2025 at its meeting Thursday.

The operating budget is 8.5 percent higher than last year’s. It relies on $2.85 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and a 30 percent uptick in parking revenues and Incline Railway fees.

The board voted to raise on-street parking fees to $1.50 per hour in October, and plans to raise Incline ticket prices from $15 to $20 for adults, and from $7 to $10 for children, effective July 1.

ARPA funding totals more than $4 million but will be spent by fiscal year 2026, representing a “looming deficit,” Board Chair Johan de Nysschen said.

Separately, funded capital projects total $4.4 million, while unfunded capital projects total $35.7 million.

The city of Chattanooga has committed $1.5 million toward the capital projects, funded with a combination of local match, state and federal grants. But $840,000 of that hasn't been applied for yet.

Annie Powell, CARTA director of grants, technology and research, said funded projects include an Incline Railway Master Plan, planning and preliminary engineering for an innovation and mobility center and fare technology updates.

The operating budget includes $250,000 to bring CARTA Go up to baseline functionality.

“We are at capacity with our existing CARTA Go zone,” said CEO Charles Frazier. Drivers can’t absorb more demand, he said, and must deny some requested trips.

The funding will add capacity to the existing zone, slightly modify that zone or add another CARTA Go zone in a section to be determined, he said.

“I think that this is a valuable service that we should fund,” Mr. Frazier said.

The operating budget also includes $40,000 to staff Shuttle Park North with an attendant and custodian, and $75,000 to fund interactions with government.

The board approved an $8,000-a-year membership to NEORide, a multi-state consortium of transit agencies, for the main purpose of streamlining CARTA’s procurement process and making it more nimble.

Mr. Frazier told the group that NEORide’s pre-negotiated contracts with industry businesses will save CARTA months of work on pricing and checking government regulations. For example, he said, NEORide already has a contract with Masabi, the fare-payment system that CARTA is eyeing as it updates fare boxes.

In his CEO report, Mr. Frazier announced that he is in conversation with other Hamilton County cities: Lakesite, Soddy Daisy, East Ridge, Lookout Mountain and more, to pinpoint transportation needs in those cities and, in the words of Chair de Nysschen, assuage concerns of county officials that CARTA does not serve the county.

CARTA officials have stated they want to attract county funding, but this year’s county budget left zero for CARTA. The county had given the transit organization only $105,000 for several years prior.
“We are all part of the same community,” Chair de Nysschen said. “There is no divide between the two.”

The operations committee, led by Chair de Nysschen, continues to renew CARTA’s efforts to collect on parking fees and tickets, he said. The push is part of a comprehensive parking revenue study which also considers maximizing lot occupancy, park-and-ride models, and expanding on-street parking, which would require approval by City Council.

“There certainly is headroom for increase in revenue from parking,” Chair de Nysschen said.

“If you don’t have enforcement, you don’t have compliance,” he said. “The team has identified a list of repeat offenders,” he said, and that the people on this list demonstrate “intent” and “disregard for good public order.” They are “flagrantly violating the law,” he said, and must accept the consequences.

The Chattanooga Mayor’s Office will present a comprehensive study of parking city-wide at the board’s August meeting. Mr. Frazier said this will “tee up” talks with City Council to expand CARTA parking.

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