Metropolitan Transit District Debates Fare Increases

Opponents Say Higher Costs Will Make Buses Unusable for Working Class

In an effort to combat rising fuel costs and keep services at their current level, the Metropolitan Transit District board continued their discussion about raising bus fares Monday.

While nothing is set in stone until the board makes final decisions September 8, the board did provide some indication of the direction it was heading. One fare increase proposal had regular cash fares increasing from $1.25 to $2, a 10-ride pass increasing from $10 to $11, and a 30-day pass going from $41 to $52. If the changes were to take place, they would bring in more than $1.5 million in additional revenue.

The board will also consider a day pass, which would be good for as many rides in one calendar day as a rider wants or needs. Fares for seniors and the disabled would also be increased, but are limited to half the price of the adult fare.

The district is hurting due to skyrocketing diesel fuel costs, which have risen from an average of $2.57 to $4.03 from January to July. Estimates suggest the district will pay $995,763 more for fuel than it did last year. Also lacking is $400,000 in revenue from state funding.

Members of the public were mostly opposed to the fee hike, indicating fee increases would make it even more difficult for the working class-those the transportation is provided for-to afford riding the bus. “We will accept no increase in the 10-day passes or the 30-day passes,” said PUEBLO executive director Belen Seara, explaining that it is already hard for some workers to pay upfront for the month-long pass. Opponents also attempted to come up with other revenue-generating solutions for the MTD board. UCSB professor of sociology Dr. Howard Winant said there is a study out there-though he hasn’t seen it, and neither had members of the board-that indicates $1 million in additional funding could be raised if the city just dropped its free parking time from 75 minutes down to 60 minutes. The city controls parking, however, and would have to agree to such a deal. It already provides MTD with a significant amount of funding.

The district is taking steps to ensure its buses are running at their highest capacity, according to MTD Assistant General Manager Jerry Estrada, and even investing in hybrid buses that-with 82 percent of the purchase cost covered by federal grants-pay back that investment in less than four years. “It makes sense for the bottom line,” Estrada said.

MTD General Manager Sherrie Fisher and Estrada emphasized the importance of the upcoming vote on Measure A, explaining that customers can expect a 20 percent service reduction should the tax measure not pass. “Without Measure A, all bets are off with regard to this budget,” Fisher said.

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