The transit board Thursday approved an increase in fares for San Diego-area buses to $1 per ride beginning Jan. 1.
An emotionally charged issue--increasing bus fares for senior citizens--and political maneuvering between small-city and big-city representatives on the Metropolitan Transit Development Board nearly defeated the $3.1-million fare increase.
The increases, which go into effect Jan. 1, were approved by an 8-to-6 vote after small concessions were granted to Strand Express riders in Coronado and Imperial Beach.
The rate increase is the first to be approved by the umbrella agency that represents public transportation systems in the southern half of San Diego County.
MTDB Chairman James Mills said the smaller communities had resisted extending the fare increases to the local bus lines and had sought to limit the new fare schedule to San Diego Transit Corp.
The changes include:
- An increase in urban line fares to $1 from 80 cents, which will bring in an additional $2.4 million a year. The MTDB estimates an annual cut in ridership by more than 900,000.
- An increase in metro-express fares to $1.25 from $1, a $315,000 annual increase in revenues and an estimated 107,000 yearly cut in ridership.
- An increase in all senior citizen-disabled person fares to 50 cents from 40 cents, an annual $147,000 increase in revenues and an estimated 141,000 decrease in ridership.
- An increase in monthly transit pass price to $40 from $38, an annual $130,000 increase in revenues and an estimated drop of 47,000 riders annually.
- An increase in senior citizen-disabled monthly pass costs to $20 from $19, a $50,000 increase in revenues and an estimated 36,000 loss in ridership.
- Increases and reductions in transfer fees balance out to a $42,000 increase in revenues and an estimated 37,000 loss in ridership.
The $3.51-million increase in annual revenues and the estimated loss of 1.2 million riders because of the increases was promoted by MTDB General Manager Tom Larwin as necessary to retain transit services at current levels in the wake of fund cuts by state and federal transportation agencies.
Senior citizen groups protested that their fixed-income constituents were being penalized unfairly to make up shortfalls in federal-state funding, while student and youth group representatives argued that their age group is receiving no subsidy at all despite their low-income status.
San Diego City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez, an MTDB board member, criticized staffers for failing to respond to the youth groups, which represent nearly 30% of the population, and said his repeated requests for staff studies on reduced youth fares had been ignored.
Bill Lieberman, MTDB director of planning and research, promised to present studies on youth fares and on a zoned fare system before the start of the increased rates Jan. 1.
Transit board members from smaller, outlying cities in South Bay argued that the rate increases should be restricted to San Diego Transit Corp. services because local buses offer shorter connector routes within the regional system and do not warrant increased fares.
Local fares on Chula Vista, National City and county bus lines remained at 75 cents, but senior-disabled fares increased to 50 cents from 40 cents per trip, and to $40 from $38 for monthly passes.