The Daily Californian Online

AC Transit to hold public hearing to discuss possible fare increases

By J.D. Morris
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Category: News > Parking and Transportation

AC Transit is considering increasing bus fares to cope with its financial problems. The transit system is holding a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss this and other possible solutions.

An AC Transit staff recommendation aimed at instituting regularly scheduled fare increases over the next decade will be discussed at a public hearing with the transit board on Wednesday as one method of dealing with the district's increasing financial woes.

If the recommendation is approved after it is heard by the board, AC Transit spokesperson Beverly Greene said the district will see about a $2.6 million increase over the next fiscal year, during which she said the district is facing a $21 million deficit.

Among the first round of fare changes would be an increase in the youth pass price from $15 to $20 per month.

"This is about a broad and general look at fare policy, of which the student pass is one small element," said AC Transit director-at-large Chris Peeples. "The recommendation has been made by staff that we adopt a fare policy that actually has us raising fares in some sort of regular way."

Though the youth pass was once priced at $27, it was lowered to $15 in 2002. According to the recommendation, youth pass prices would increase to $45 per month in the 2018-19 fiscal year, while adults, who currently pay $80 per month, would see their prices increase to $90 by that year.

"I don't think $5 higher price per month (for youth) would make that much of a difference - it is still a hugely discounted fare both from what it actually costs to operate the system and relative to what gets paid by a poor single mother," Peeples said. "This is not to say I'm going vote to support it, however ... I do not make that decision till all the information is presented."

Peeples said he may propose changes to the staff recommendation after hearing more information at the Wednesday hearing.

In 2008, Berkeley voters approved an increase in a district parcel tax - doubling it from $48 to $96 per year - partly in order to keep transit prices low.

But the district is now facing what Greene described as a "volatile economy" under which decreases in funding from the federal and state level, as well as funding from tax revenue and operating costs, have put the district under tight financial constraints.

"Funding is decreasing, not just for AC Transit, but for many in the state," Greene said. "Fares are one revenue stream that's a lever ... that's in our power to change."

According to Greene, the transit board will listen to public comment on Wednesday and make a decision on May 11.

"Part of what we're taking into account is the financial situation of AC Transit, which is terrible - as with every other transportation department, especially in California," Peeples said. "Our average cost of providing a ride is $3.88, so the question becomes, how much of that should the passenger pay?"

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