Friday, September 12, 2008

Samtrans fare increase likely in February

With the rising costs of fuel making it all-but inevitable, the SamTrans board of directors on Wednesday set an Oct. 15 date for a public hearing to take input on a proposed fare increase.

SamTrans staff is proposing a raise in the $1.50 base fare to $1.75 per trip. Monthly pass prices would rise from $48 to $56 and a pack of 10 tokens would increase $2 to $14.50. Senior, disabled and youth fares would stay at their current levels. If approved, the new fare structure would take effect on Feb. 1, 2009.

When the matter came up before the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (of which yours truly is a member) last week, I think we all understood the inevitability for it. The price of diesel fuel has increased by more than $2 per gallon since the last SamTrans fare increase in 2005. I think the CAC knows that we can't hold the line against raising fares forever.

But I brought up what seemed to be a strange proposed pricing structure -- $14.50 for a pack of 10 tokens, $56 for a monthly pass. What's with the off-kilter odd amounts for those items? It turns out staff simply multipled the prices for those items by the same amount they increased the base fare. The CAC asked that the proposed rates for those items be rounded down to $14 and $55.

Staff members seemed receptive to our suggestions. In addition, I noted that there was no pricing proposal related to the "day pass," that we have been discussing to come online next Fall when SamTrans installs new fareboxes on its buses. I noted that, according to plan, day passes would arrive less than nine months after the proposed fare increase and it was time to start figuring out how they would fit into the SamTrans fare structure. Staff agreed, but I got the impression they thought it was still a little early to think about such matters.

When our esteemed chair, Wayne Kingsford Smith, summarized our discussion to the Board of Directors Wednesday, he basically told them that the CAC had “decided to sleep on it” and return with our recommendations in October. True, for the most part, but I wish Wayne had given the Board a little more regarding the concerns with the pricing structure. Oh well, it’ll look better coming in as part of a comprehensive report in October.

In any case, the staff report to the Board of Directors mentioned our request to round off the costs of tokens and the Board approved the Oct. 15 public hearing date. I hate fare increases, but I haven't heard any better proposal to help make up the increasing structural deficit in the SamTrans finances.

No comments: