Hikes in transit fares, which take effect next month, will affect Metro Mobility riders as well as riders of Metro Transit buses and Hiawatha Corridor light rail. The rate hike was approved August 13 by the Metropolitan Council and will go into effect October 1. The increase is 50 cents for Metro Mobility service for persons with disabilities and 25 cents for regular-route service.
New cash fares will be $1.75, $2.25 or $3 depending on the type of service and time of day. Metro Mobility fares will be $4 during weekday rush hours and $3 at other times.
The fare increase will be implemented by all service providers, including Metro Transit, the region’s largest provider of transit service, Metro Mobility, suburban transit providers, and dial-a-ride and other contacted service.
Metro Transit, the region’s largest provider of transit service, expects to provide 80 million rides in 2008. The need for a fare increase was announced in June, followed by public hearings and meetings in July. More than 400 public comments were received from people who attended the public sessions or submitted comments by other means, including email, fax, phone messages and mail. Comments were received from riders with disabilities as well as those who ride regular Metro Transit routes and routes of suburban transit providers.
Among those commenting was Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who expressed opposition to the fare increase at one public hearing. Rybak said that fare increases are a step in the wrong direction. “At a time
of skyrocketing gas prices, traffic congestion and global warming, we have an historic opportunity to dramatically improve and increase transit use,” Rybak said. “At this rare moment, we have the opportunity to make the single greatest shift in transportation patterns in a generation. We should seize this opportunity, not ignore it.”
“More people than ever want to ride transit and Metro Transit should do everything possible to encourage people to use transit, not discourage them,” Rybak added. “Fare increases discourage transit ridership pure and simple and Metro Transit should delay this increase and explore other options to balance their budget.”
The Metropolitan Council also approved a second fare increase, if needed, to take effect sometime in 2009, adding up to another 50 cents to the cost of a bus, train or Metro Mobility ride, depending on the cost of fuel and other economic factors. Council officials have indicated there will be opportunity for additional public input in advance of a second increase, if another increase is deemed necessary.
The last fare increase took effect July 1, 2005.
The council, however, did not support extending the morning rush-hour by one-half hour, so that rush hour fares would have begun at 5:30 a.m. “The longer morning rush-hour was a sticking point among people who are transit dependent, and who felt it would impose particular hardship upon lower-income customers,” said Council Chair Peter Bell. “We felt this was an area where we were able to exercise some flexibility.”
“No one particularly relishes the idea of higher fares, least of all the council—given growing transit ridership,” said Bell. “But it’s safe to say people understand what it means when we experience rising fuel costs and lower than expected revenues from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MSTV).
“Under the circumstances, it’s an increase that’s pretty modest and fair,” Bell added.
The regional transit operating budget in FY2009 is $378.4 million. Transit services are struggling with increased fuel costs, as a time when ridership demand continuers to increase MVST revenues for FY2009 are forecasted to be $124 million, $16 million less than the Nov. 2007 forecast (in FY08, metro-area transit receives 24 percent of MVST revenues, and when the five-year phase-in is complete in 2012, metro-area transit will receive 36 percent of MVST revenues)
Even with the fare increase, agency officials say support from the Minnesota Legislature will be needed to close the gap on projected shortfalls in the future. The fare increase addresses about half the expected regional transit shortfall for 2009 of $15 million, a deficit that would have been higher without a $31 million infusion from the county sales tax the legislature approved this year. The fare increase will also help to lower an anticipated shortfall in 2010 and 2011, which combined, was projected to be closer to $70 million.
This information is from Metropolitan Council and City of Minneapolis.