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AC Transit Commuters Sound Off On Discount Passes, Fare Changes

Tuesday June 17, 2003

If the AC Transit board of directors votes to eliminate discount monthly passes, Charles Menton said he will stop riding the bus. 

But Menton’s seatmate on the 43 line, Regina Phillips, has no other way to get to and from work. The problem is, Phillips said, she’s unsure if she will be able to afford the regular rate. 

“If they get rid of the discount pass, I’m going to be in a real bind,” Phillips said. “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.” 

The board of directors will vote on the fare changes on Thursday. They will consider two options: one that would lower regular fares to $1 but eliminate all discount passes and transfers, and another that would retain the current $1.50 regular fare, keep discount passes for seniors, and maintain a limited transfer option. Adult and youth monthly passes would be eliminated in either option. 

Bus riders expressed their concerns at a series of public hearings last Thursday. AC Transit public information officer Mike Mills said the board was receptive to people’s complaints, but is at a loss for alternative measures to ease a projected $40 million deficit. 

“Ideally we’d like to keep everything, but with the budget deficit we need to find ways to increase revenue,” Mills said. 

But some riders said the transit organization is going about the problem the wrong way. “You can’t just cut the passes that make it possible for people to get around,” said Lenny Smart while riding the Number 43 to work. “That would affect so many people and it would hurt the poor people first. That’s not fair. They’re a service provider.” 

Some were more sympathetic to AC Transit’s struggle to combat its budget problems.  

“They’re doing everything they can,” said Patricia Fernandez, who said she would continue to ride the bus regardless of whether the monthly pass is cut. “They cut administrators and staffers first, and this is kind of a last resort. They don’t want this any more than we do, but in this economy something has to give.”  

Menton sees the fare changes as a “necessary evil” that might backfire if people stop riding the bus. 

“I don’t know how much they’re going to be able to increase revenue, because people will stop riding all together,” Menton said. “I understand why they would do it, but they’ve got to know there will be a lot more carpooling, a lot more biking to work or whatever to avoid the buses.”