[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — Just as ridership is growing to record levels on the Valley’s public transit, authorities are edging closer to enacting big fare hikes. Officials are weighing base-fare increases of at least 40 percent to maintain services as other revenue falls sharply and operating costs rise. As with other transit systems around the country, the situation is dire: Ridership is growing at a record pace while operating money is drying up.
Some Valley transit officials fear the proposed increases for buses and trains could scare off new riders and undo the early popularity of the new light-rail system. Typically, higher fares also hurt poorer riders who depend on the system most.
The Phoenix City Council made a key move this week when it passed a city budget that relies on pending fare hikes, the first across-the-board increases since 1995. The city’s plans could change. The Regional Public Transportation Authority, which oversees the Valley cities’ combined transit system, is considering its own fare increase. An authority committee discussing the issue Wednesday indicated a fare increase was inevitable. The authority is expected to take final action March 4.
The plans from Phoenix and the transit board are for significant increases: The base $1.25 fare would likely increase by 50 cents, a 40 percent jump. Costs for an all-day pass, which includes transfers from bus to bus or bus to rail, could double, from $2.50 to $5.
Fare hikes would hit the region’s poor, elderly, and disabled riders most. A new Valley Metro study says that half the region’s bus riders have no cars and three-quarters earn less than $35,000 a year. “Five dollars (for a day pass)? For what?” said Anthony Murray, a 46-year-old mechanic who earns $360 a week at Hertz Rent-a-Car near the airport. “I’d have to cut off my phone for sure.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]