A scheduled fare increase in July for Metro transit services has been postponed. The fare increase would have raised MetroBus and MetroLink base fares by 25¢ to $2.25 and $2.50, respectively. Ray Friem, Chief Operating Officer of Transit Services for Metro, had the details in today’s Metro Live discussion on STLtoday.com.
The Metro board of Commissioners has decided to put off the July fare increase until some future time. We are completely focused on service restoration and rebuilding passenger base, activities that generate far more revenue than the proposed fare increase could recover. Fare increases are necessary to provide the system with additional stability. All fares collected are spent on operating or enhancing the system. Historically we have held the line on fares until the system is so strained it becomes unavoidable. Then the rate of the hike is so substantial that it impacts system users very significantly. We are modelling more regular but less substantial fare hikes that we believe are more in line with consumer expectation and provide for more stability for the system.
The July fare increase was to be the second of a two-part fare increase planned since November 2008 when the failure of Proposition M forced Metro’s hand. The first fare increase occurred January 2009 when base fares for MetroBus and MetroLink rose 25¢ to their present levels. The postponement of the fare increase will be made official during the Metro Board of Commissioners meeting later this month.
Peak fare averted
|Denver||$2.00 – $4.50|
|Minneapolis||$1.75 – $2.25|
|Pittsburgh||$2.00 – $2.75|
|Portland||$2.00 – $2.30|
|Salt Lake City||$2.00|
|Seattle||$1.75 – $2.50|
As mentioned by Ray Friem above, Metro is responding to the recent passage of Proposition A by St. Louis County. Metro is using the new source of funding to fuel its service restoration efforts. Raising fares immediately after Proposition A’s passage would have only served to antagonize the citizens of St. Louis County who showed Metro such goodwill in April.
Amongst light rail transit systems, MetroLink already has one of the highest base fares in the U.S. Only San Diego and Sacramento, at $2.50 for a single trip, are higher. Four other light rail systems have zone or distance-based fares that exceed MetroLink’s $2.25 base fare price.
Would a 25¢ fare increase have been too much for St. Louis transit riders to handle? Since beginning a series of fare increases in 2001, Metro ridership has been relatively stagnant, rising only recently to levels not seen in a decade due to increasing fuel prices and the completion of the Cross County Extension to Shrewsbury. The 2009 service cuts and fare increase, however, reduced MetroBus ridership by over 21% and MetroLink ridership by 11%.
Metro is sort of desperate in its need to restore rider confidence and win back the transit riders it lost. And a fare increase will be necessary sometime soon to keep up with ever rising fuel, labor, and maintenance costs. Just, thankfully, not come July.