Metro Light Rail has recently had a series of public discussions concerning the fare structure that guides the price of bus service (local, regional, express and RAPID), Phoenix and East Valley Paratransit Dial-a-Ride and METRO light rail services. After this series of discussions, a final recommendation will be presented to city councils as required and the Valley Metro Board of Directors in early 2009. If you were not able to make the public meetings to voice your opinion in person you can still use the following methods.
·Email comments to fares@ValleyMetro.org
·Customer Service will accept comments at 602-253-5000
·Written comments can be sent to:
Valley Metro RPTA
Attn: Fare Program Manager
302 N. 1st Ave. Ste. 700
I attended the January 7th meeting and found the public input very interesting. One of the many interesting things to me has been the "public" perception of how the rate increase comes as the new light rail system opens. The thought appears to be that they are raising the fees to pay for light rail and I do not believe this to be the case. The most opposition from the meeting itself came from people riding the bus on a regular basis. The timing of the rate increase is interesting as gas prices have come down ( a potential savings for Metro?), the economy worsens (more people "forced" to ride the bus?) and the numbers of riders introduced to a new way to get around. (light rail)
I would be curious to see if / how the numbers of overall Metro riders will be affected after people have a chance to ride light rail, to potentially find a benefit and to see if they would be willing to take a connecting bus or RAPID line to connect to light rail. From what I understand, the budget was missed by less than 2% yet most of the recommendations for fare increases are in excess of 25%.
I have enjoyed being involved with the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and have tried to keep up with their stance on this issue. Some of their positions have been:
Deterring of Ridership
Light Rail ridership has yet to begin and already a rate increase is being proposed. Such an increase will cause potential riders to reconsider and perhaps choose other modes of transportations. The very reason for light rail will be lost with a rate increase right after it is in operation. In my opinion, this one is big. I have seen, first hand, a large amount of public interest in light rail. The early months area a great time introduce new riders to public transportation. In Arizona, everyone is use to using a car, it will be easy for them to return to this mind-set.
Access to Jobs
In the midst of an economic downturn, the region should resist increasing fares for transit services. An affordable multi-modal transit system provides citizens with access to employment opportunities. Cutting services and raising fares is counterproductive to a primary purpose of providing transit service. This was a very large part of the public meeting I attended. Many of the people struggled to pay for the current service and felt it would be very hard for them to pay significantly higher rates for the same or limited service.
Negative Public Perception
A transit fare increase shortly following the opening of METRO light rail will be perceived as mortgaging the bus system to pay for rail. In my opinion, this is exactly what people will assume, the backlash of public opinion could be significant, future expansion plans could be jeopardized.
Interestingly enough, in a November 2008 meeting with the Metro Board of Directors, before this recent public process began, Tempe City Council member Shana Ellis (also a member of the Valley Metro Board of Directors) was the only Valley Metro Board member who voted against the transit fare increase.
Many questions remain concerning the future of the fee increase. The proposed fare increase scenarios for bus and light rail are:
$0.50 increase: $1.75 one-ride local fare – $5.00 all day pass
$0.75 increase: $2.00 one-ride local fare – $6.00 all day pass
$1.00 increase: $2.25 one-ride local fare – $6.75 all day pass
Current fees for local bus and light rail are $1.25 one-ride local fare – $2.50 all day pass.
Please note: Rail Life is not associated with Metro and has no control over these fees. 🙂