A fair, fare increase
This week the Metropolitan Council voted to begin a looking at the possibility of a transit fare increase. This is not an action we are taking lightly, and an actual decision on whether or not to increase fares is still months away. However, the discussion we have in the meantime will be vitally important to ensure that our fares remain fair. In the coming weeks, we will be relying heavily on public input about fare policy.
We have not raised fares since 2008—nearly a decade. During that time, our costs have increased at a rate of about 3% a year, while revenues from the state have either remained flat or have not increased at the same rate of inflation. While Governor Dayton has proposed a fix that would have addressed this shortfall, the legislature has not acted on it.
These systemic problems have resulted in a $74 million transit deficit for the next two-year funding cycle. The Senate Transportation bill does not address this shortfall, while the House version of the bill actually cuts transit funding even further. That would result in a deficit of $125 million, which would force cuts in transit service of 40% even AFTER a fare hike would go into effect.
Clearly, a fare hike will not solve these problems completely, but the revenue it would generate is an important piece of the puzzle. The $10 million to $14 million it would generate would minimize the impacts of potential cuts. Even if the legislature does not cut transit funding, an increase in fare revenue is important to ensure that we can maintain and expand the level of transit service we have today.
This is where we need to keep fairness in the fare increase. Many people in our region are dependent on transit and will find any fare increase difficult to absorb in their family finances. Determining how much rates should go up, and how an increase is structured, is vitally important.
For the past year, we’ve operated a pilot program to create a $1 fare for people with low incomes. We are considering making that program permanent.
Beginning this month, we will hold public meetings and get out into the community to engage people about how a fare hike would impact them and their bottom line. We need your ideas to make a balanced decision. Please attend these meetings and encourage others to come. We need your help and participation to ensure that our fares are fair.