Many public transit riders are getting a raw deal these days: less service and higher fares. The Bay Area isn’t immune from the trend, either.
Boards for both County Connection bus system in Contra Costa County and the Wheels bus system in the Livermore Amador Valley area have voted to boost their basic fare from $1.75 to $2, starting in late March. Both agencies also are reducing service.
The AC Transit board also will consider adopting the two-buck bus fare when it meets 5 p.m. Feb. 25 at AC Transit headquarters, 1600 Franklin Ave., Oakland. Some critics are steamed, saying the fare hike is coming much too soon after AC Transit voters decided last November to boost their parcel tax from $48 to $96 a year to avoid fare increases and service cuts.
BART managers worry their train system will need a fare increase this summer, in addition to an automatic one that is scheduled to go into effect this Jan. 1.
Transit managers say they regret the price increases and service cuts, but the sour economy is eating their lunch. Revenue from fares covers from one-fifth to half of their operating costs, and the remaining amount comes from tax revenues being sharply eroded by the recession.
Transit leaders also fear their financial outlook could grow worse when a California budget deal is made. State lawmakers and the governor have a track record in recent years of diverting state funds away from public transit to solve other state problems.
Is there any relief in sight? Some transit officials see potential for the federal job stimulus bill being debated in Congress to provide some relief, offering money for preventative maintenance. We’ll tune in to find out.