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AC Transit Directors Table Fare Increase for More Study

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday January 25, 2008

The AC Transit Board of Directors tabled a proposed 25 cent bus fare in-crease Wednesday night to study its implications on ridership, with the issue likely to come back before them before the winter is out. 

With expenses increasing rapidly (district health benefits are reported up over 40 percent, fuel and oil up nearly 50 percent, and pension-fund contributions up 57 percent, all in the past three years) and subsidies from the state in jeopardy if fare revenues don’t increase, transit official directors took their first look this week at four fare-increase proposals. 

If directors had voted to move forward with the fare-increase process, a public hearing on the proposed increase could have taken place as early as April 9th, with directors then voting on final approval. 

However, Ward Two Director Greg Harper (Emeryville, Piedmont, Berkeley) balked at the proposals, saying, “We know from the past that when we raise fares we lose ridership. It takes three years to recover, and then we raise fares again. I’m not going to vote for another fare increase until we grasp what effect it will have on ridership.” Harper asked for detailed information surrounding the last three fare increases, saying that “without that, I feel I’m flying blind on these fare increases.” 

While Board President Chris Peeples (At Large) said he thought the district may need to hire an outside consultant to provide an analysis of the ridership impact of the last three AC Transit fare increases, he called for a tabling of the increase proposals until Harper could get the information from staff and draw up his own analysis. No date was set when the issue would come back before the board. 

Under the proposal recommended by AC Transit staff, adult fares would rise 25 cents from $1.75 to $2 beginning July 1, with the adult monthly pass rising from $70 to $80 and the youth and senior/disability passes rising from $15 to $28. The staff is also proposing raising the basic adult fare 25 cents every four years in a staggered schedule beginning in 2011, with a 10 cent raise that year and a 15 cent raise two years following. 

Other proposals include tying future fare raises to the Consumer Price Index, or offsetting the 25 cent fare increase by providing passengers with automatic, unlimited transfers. The district’s general counsel said that directors had the option of adopting any one of the four proposals, or mixing elements from the different proposals, or coming up with an entirely new fare proposal. 

A memo outlining the four AC Transit proposed fare increase proposals is available at bod/memos/87caf4.pdf.