Valley Metro proposes fare increases; Phoenix public hearings begin this week

The Valley Metro will likely see a fare increase effective March 1, 2013, to offset gradually increasing costs of operation, maintenance, labor and fuel. (Danielle Gregory/DD)

Light rail and bus riders in the greater Phoenix area are likely to experience a fare increase effective March 1, 2013.

In order to provide continual maintenance, safety and preservation of public transportation in the area, Valley Metro is proposing a $0.25 increase for one-ride local bus, LINK and light rail passes. A $0.50 increase for Express and RAPID buses was simultaneously proposed, meaning all passes for public transportation in Phoenix will cost more.

“It’s just a way for us to keep up the cost of business,” Valley Metro Communication Manager Susan Tierney said.

Annually, there is a 3 to 4 percent increase in operation and costs for maintenance, labor and fuel due to inflation, Tierney said. Metro fare attributes to only 25 percent of the cost per trip, which means the remaining 75 percent is paid through local and regional taxes, she said.

One-day passes for local buses, LINK and the light rail will now cost $2, and $3.25 for the Express and Rapid bus. This fare increase will likely earn the company $6.5 million annually, according to the Metro website.

Metro is also removing the 3-day pass and replacing it with a 15-day pass for local buses, LINK and the light rail. Tierney said the 15-day pass will be more affordable than the 31-day.

According to a fare chart on the Metro website, the local bus, LINK and light rail 15-day pass will cost $33, which is $2.20 a day. The 31-day pass cost will be raised to $64, or $2.06 a day.

Current ASU U-Pass holders will not be affected by this change, according to a news release by ASU Parking and Transit News.

It is unknown how this will affect future U-Pass costs. The earliest cost changes would affect students during next summer or the 2013-2014 school year.

Dietetics junior Tess Harding said she would just consider a cost jump for the U-Pass as an increase in school costs.

Phoenix resident Nickie Lawson said she does not think Metro should raise fare prices. Lawson uses the light rail every day in order to save on gas.

“People are going to start using their cars,” Lawson said. “They’re going to lose business.”

Tierney said that she expects to lose some ridership but thinks it will pick up again.

Currently, Metro is exploring numerous outlets to gain public input on the changes. Future open houses in Phoenix will be Oct. 25 at Arcadia High School, Oct. 29 at Pecos Community Center and Oct. 30 at Desert Sage Library, all occurring at 6 p.m. A tweet chat will take place Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. and, although a webinar has passed, a recording is available on Metro website.

The public hearing will take place Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. at Metro offices in downtown Phoenix at 101 N. 1st Ave. on the 10th floor. Public feedback will be presented to the Metro board of directors, who will decide either to increase the fare or not. If they do, they will determine the increased amount.

“The more feedback that we get, the more accurate we are going to be with making this decision,” Tierney said.

The last fare change was July 1, 2009, when it was announced that the fare would likely increase every three years, according to the Fare Change Informational Webinar registration page on the Metro website.

Tierney said fare increases will continue to occur as needed, which may be in as little as three years.

A previous attempt to raise the fare by $0.25 for all one day passes occurred in 2011, but after an analysis, it was discovered that the local bus, LINK and light rail riders would pay more toward Metro maintenance and operation than Express and RAPID riders, according to the executive summary of the analysis.

In order to create more equity for all riders, the Express and RAPID fares will be increased more than the local bus, LINK and light rail.

Robin Kennedy, a north Phoenix resident, said she has mixed feelings over the fare increase. She said she believes the Metro pass system should be restructured, and added that there is never sitting room, sometimes lights are broken and occasionally the air is of poor quality.

“I understand they need the money,” Kennedy said. However, for the amount she pays, “I’m not seeing the value I would like to get.”

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