There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sounds of fare increases

I took my new toy to the Sacramento Regional Transit board meeting Monday night and came away with these audio highlights.

County Supervisor Roger Dickinson wins high marks for trying, if not for his elocution, as he attempts to make the case that the increased ridership RT has been seeing so far this year will more than cover the hole in the budget that the fare hike will fill.

RT expects to raise $2.5 million between Jan. 1, 2009, and the start of the new fiscal year in July. The staff explained that the $2.5 million total takes into account the "deflection" that will occur when people who have a choice vote with their wheels and drive to work rather than pay the new fares. I bought gas for the kid tonight. It's now under $2.80. Sure, it's unlikely to go much further, but when that fare hike hits, I wouldn't be surprised if the "deflection" is a lot more than the 2 percent that staff predict, especially on light rail.

Dickinson came back to the topic again and then forever won my gratitude by bringing up the topic of making people pay for transfers, a system that began in the 1980s when RT redesigned its routes to make the central role of buses feeders for light rail rather than stand alone services.

Regular riders will whine come January, but the disabled community took the biggest hit.

Today, RT provides free rides for people qualified to use Paratransit and their care givers. There's no secret why: It costs more than $40, perhaps as much as $60, for every door-to-door trip by Paratransit. By law, RT can charge no more than twice the regular bus fare for this service. Some time ago, RT figured that the money saved by getting people to use RT's fixed routes instead of Paratransit would more than cover the free rides.

That was then. This is now. And RT lusts after the $1.3 million it thinks it will collect from charging $1.10 for the 200,000 trips each month that they currently give away for free.'

The problem with charging the regular disabled fare for riders who qualify for Paratransit service wasn't lost on this blind woman:

RT staff argue that paying $1.10 vs. paying the new $4.50 Paratransit fee (double the new $2.25 basic fare) will keep these people on fixed route buses. But its not hard to imagine what would happen if half of those 200,000 monthly trips were taken on Paratransit.

Rubbing salt in the wound, RT will end the free rides in December, a month before regular fares increase. Staff argued that they didn't want news of the change to be lost in the noise of the regular fare hike. No one on the board expressed any sympathy for this additional insult to the disabled.

Still, the prize for callousness doesn't go the staff who brought this proposal or to the board members who approved it. No, that prize goes to this guy:

Here are the new fares:

Details are also available here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Free fares have equaled increased mobility for the disabled.

I suspect that many in the disabled community will stop riding as often and decrease their quality of life to absorb the increased expense. Some will become prisoners in their own homes.