Been There, Done That
January 14, 2009 11:45 AM
Last night the Transit & Parking Commission voted to raise fares to the equivalent of about half of what the Council and I budgeted for fare revenues. The TPC is revisiting the same set of policy choices I had back in the fall when I was putting my budget together, but they're reaching different (and I think wrong) conclusions.
When I was putting together my budget in September I was faced with basically two choices. I could call for raising fares to $1.75 or $2.00. (Not raising fares at all was pretty much off the table because I didn't want the deep service cuts that would come without a fare increase.) We called for information, debated the pros and cons... essentially struggled with it just as the TPC has been doing for the last several weeks.
My conclusion was (and still is) that the bigger increase was better because the smaller increase is the worst of both worlds: higher fares for, at best, the same service. By going to $2.00 we could actually increase service for the first time in years and provide a lot of other improvements. A smaller increase doesn't get us much; it's just running in place. And it sets us up for the possibility of another fare increase pretty soon with, again, no service expansions.
Moreover, the more ambitious fare increase makes possible a whole new and exciting program for low-income riders. Developed by community activist Lisa Subeck and others this proposal would actually dramatically lower the fare for 3,600 low income riders from the current $48 for a monthly pass to $27.50. The smaller fare increase won't provide enough funding for that.
Finally, the TPC still left a Metro budget deficit of something around a quarter of a million dollars.
So, I appreciate what the TPC's trying to do here, but the Council and I have been over the same ground, struggled with the same difficult choices, and reached different - and I think more sound - conclusions.
What happens next? Well, I'll talk to Council members and others to see how they feel about it. Bringing this back to the Council is a possibility. Stay tuned.