September 6, 2013
Capital Metro’s new fare restructuring proposal may come as a rude shock to seniors and citizens with disabilities. An online chart from the agency’s website shows the proposed changes for 2014 and 2015. Next year, many routine bus trips that we are accustomed to will cost double the price or possibly even higher, over what we are paying now. Then in 2015 they are proposing an additional across the board 25% fare increase!
Under the current system, seniors can buy a $1.00 day pass and use it on any local bus trip for 24 hours. You can buy the pass right on the bus by showing your reduced fare card. This is especially helpful if you take routine trips that require more than one bus to get to your destination.
Under the new plan, the reduced fare day passes will disappear, requiring you to pay $2.00 for a full price day pass. You could pay fifty cents each time your board, but the round trip price would still be $2.00 if you take two buses each way. A large percentage of passengers are low-income people. We need to push hard for Capital Metro to keep the $1.00 reduced fare passes.
The new plan also eliminates the $4.50 reduced fare weekly passes, which means the price doubles to $9.00. Capital Metro’s argument is that we will have the option to buy a reduced fare monthly pass for $16.50. But many retired seniors may not ride the bus every day throughout the month. Flexibility and convenience for the passengers should be the priority, not streamlining things for Capital Metro.
Things will get a bit more complicated next year when the new, bigger “MetroRapid” buses go into service. They will have a higher fare structure than the current “local buses.” And the plan calls for no reduced fare daily or weekly passes for them either. Capital Metro has decided to keep local buses running on the North Lamar MetroRapid route, to provide more stops and allow a lower priced option. Although the agency website states that the #3 Burnet bus will be eliminated, the Manager of Board Relations says that they have set a goal to provide local bus service along that route as well.
Seniors and mobility-impaired passengers will sometimes want to use the MetroRapid service to save time. If they need to transfer between a local bus and a MetroRapid bus, how will the day passes work? Will they be interchangeable, so that whichever type bus you board at the start of your trip, you would be able to transfer to the other, using the same pass? If the only option is to buy a MetroRapid pass, with no discount available, then the price would be $3.00. I believe that would be too steep of an increase for reduced fare eligible passengers.
The additional 25 percent fare increase proposed for 2015 is really hard to swallow. Whatever happened to “Dump the Pump?” Has Capital Metro forgotten their long-standing goal of encouraging people to ride the bus? Check out the complete list of fare increases by going to capmetro.org/farechange/. Public hearing information is also provided.
For all the trouble that went into the fare change study, the impact on the agency’s annual budget by eliminating most reduced fare passes is miniscule. They would lose 290,000 passenger boardings and save just $243,700 out of a $283.7 million budget. That’s only 9/100 of 1%, hardly enough to justify the punitive effect on some of Austin’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Capital Metro Board will vote on the full two-year plan on Monday, September 23rd. If you agree that imposing this burden on seniors and citizens with disabilities is unacceptable and does not meet Austin’s community values, please voice your concerns to the following:
Mike Martinez, Capital Metro Board Chairman, Austin City Council Member:
Email: Mike.Martinez@austintexas.gov Phone: (512) 974-2264
Chris Riley, Capital Metro Board Member, Austin City Council Member:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (512) 974-2260
Capital Metro Board: email@example.com
Capital Metro Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org