After a Good Debate an Opportunity to Move Forward
February 26, 2009 10:59 AM
The debate at the February 24th Council meeting about bus fares was one of the best I've witnessed in my six years as mayor. Much of the credit for that goes to the tone set by Brian Solomon, the chief opponent of an increase in fares. Solomon fought as hard as he could, he summoned facts, pulled up data and fashioned arguments without ever getting personal. And most of the Madison City Council had a very engaged debate over the APTA elasticity model, among other things. Show me another legislative body in America that has a spirited and detailed debate over elasticity models.
It was a long haul, but the end result was the one I thought was needed for the long term health of the Metro system. My support for the fare increase has always grown out of my strong support of Metro and what I believe will sustain it into the future. Now, the Transit & Parking Commission gets to do the more enjoyable part of their job: decide how to deploy $150,000 in service improvements. In addition, we'll get to work on the details of an exciting new program for low-income riders. The fare revenues made it possible to provide hundreds of monthly low-income rider passes at $27.50 compared to the current rate of $47. We can also get started on expanding our program to provide deeply discounted passes to small businesses so that they can provide their employees with the same free bus passes that large employers can now provide.
My hope is that this is the last fare increase we'll need for quite awhile, possibly even bridging the gap between now and creation of the Regional Transit Authority that is made possible in Governor Doyle's state budget proposal. If all goes well a referendum on the sales tax to fund the RTA could go on the ballot in the fall of 2010, making it possible for it to kick in in time for the 2012 fiscal year.