The price to ride Metro trains and buses could be going up... again.
It's Metro's policy to consider raising fares every other year. Fare revenue pays for part of the transit authority's $1.6 billion operating budget — and 70 percent of that pays employees salaries, benefits, and pensions.
"It takes people to run trains, it takes people to maintain trains, it takes people to run buses, it takes people to maintain buses," says Metro general manager Richard Sarles. "That's what you pay for."
Metro will consider an average fare increase of 10 cents per ride to raise an extra $30 million in revenue a year. Forecasters anticipate modest growth in bus and rail ridership — about 1 to 2 percent a year. But the last time Metro raised fares, rail ridership fell. Sarles was asked if that could happen again.
Well, actually, we still saw an increase in revenue from the last fare increase, a significant increase in revenue. The timing was unfortunate because at that same time, the federal government reduced the transit benefit. So the impact on riders was magnified.
Rail ridership dropped 4 percent last fiscal year. Any fare increase — if approved — would not go into effect until next July. Metro is also considering charging one fare — $1.75 — for a bus ride regardless of whether you pay with cash or SmarTrip.