Wheels in Motion for New Bus Fares

Capital Metro approves a fare increase for January

On the upside: Even after Capital Metro raises fares, a ride on one of the agency's buses will still be cheaper than mass transportation in other cities.

The downside: If you're so bad off that you can't afford the fares now, that's a moot point.

Changing its collective mind once again, Capital Metro's board of directors voted last week to push a fare increase previously planned for August 2010 up to January. It will likely be the last major decision the board makes before state law changes its composition beginning Jan. 1.

Last year, a single-ride fare jumped from 50 cents to 75 cents, and it was scheduled to rise again to $1 in August. However, financial woes prompted Cap Metro's staff to suggest starting the $1 fare and similar increases in multitrip passes eight months earlier.

Discussion of diverting $2.6 million in federal stimulus money from rail improvements to regular operations was seriously considered late this summer in an effort to forestall the increase, but a 4-1 vote on Nov. 4 sealed the deal, and the board said new rates will begin Jan. 18.

The only real debate last week wasn't whether to bring fares more in line with other transit systems, but rather who would pay them. Staff proposed that seniors and the disabled, who ride for free, begin paying a small fare, but that was squelched.

"We're not a social service agency," said board member and Leander Mayor John Cowman, repeating what has become a bit of a mantra at Cap Metro lately. "Twenty-five cents [the proposed discount fare] will take a senior around the city. ... Everybody should be paying. I don't mean to be cruel or insensitive, but I think it's very important that we empower each other and all pitch in to build Capital Metro."

"We're in the people business, though," countered board member Mike Manor. "I think in terms of using tax dollars ... we have some ethical considerations of what [the] social impacts are."

Eventually, Cowman went along with the majority for the January increase (minus the charge on the disabled and elderly), while Manor voted no out of concern for those with low incomes.

On that front, "Origin and destination studies that Cap Metro has provided show that a majority of low-income and minority riders buy the 31-day pass," said D'Ann Johnson of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a nonprofit that assists the poor. Those monthly bus passes were hit with especially large hikes, proportionately – the second in about a year. "We know that increase from $10 per month a year ago to $28 now is a significant impact to people. Twenty dollars a month, $250 a year for people on fixed incomes. And they aren't choice riders, they're transit-dependent."

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organiza-tion, which oversees transportation planning for the region, has the option to reverse the fare changes by Jan. 4, but said at its November meeting it would not do so.

In other Cap Metro news: Although CAMPO elected not to renew Manor for one of its slots in the January restructuring of the Cap Metro board, Manor plans to apply for Travis County's slot, which will be vacated by the current board chair, Travis County Com­mis­sioner Margaret Gómez. CAMPO decided to appoint affordable housing activist Frank Fernández, land-use consultant John Langmore, and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez as its representatives on the board.


What Riders Will Pay in 2010

Capital Metro's board of directors voted last week to increase fares for bus and eventual rail service, effective Jan. 18.

Single-Ride/Day PassesCurrentJan. 18Increase
Bus single-ride adult$0.75$1.0033%
Bus ride reduced (student, military)$0.35$0.5043%
Bus day pass$1.50$2.0033%
Express bus single-ride adult$1.50$2.5067%
Express ride reduced$0.75$1.2567%
Express day pass$3.00$5.0067%
MetroRail – one zone$1.00$2.00100%
MetroRail – two zones$1.50$3.00100%
MetroRail – day pass adult$3.00$6.00100%
MetroAccess single-ride$0.70$1.2071%
Seniors, disabled, Medicare holdersFree*Free*0%
Multi-Ride Passes
Bus – 31-day$18$2856%
Bus – 31-day reduced$9$1456%
Bus – seven-day$7$814%
Express 31-day$36$6375%
Express 31-day reduced$18$31.5075%
Stored-value card ($15 value)$12$120%
MetroAccess – monthly$22.50$3556%
MetroAccess – 10-ride$7$1271%
MetroRail 31-day$36$7094%
RideShare – in service area$45$6033%
(out of service area: add mileage) $45+$60+33%

*To receive the free fares, riders must have a valid Capital Metro issued ID, which is valid for two years and costs $5. Seniors are defined as persons 65 and older.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Capital Metro, John Cowman, Mike Manor, D'Ann Johnson, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

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