Transit fare increase put to vote

Derrick Biney

The Metropolitan Council is scheduled to have a meeting Wednesday to vote on its fares-adjustment recommendation for Metro Transit bus services.

Fare hikes and service reductions have been proposed to address Metro Transit’s projected $60 million deficit, according to the Metropolitan Council’s Web site.

The council held seven public hearings in mid-April to hear comments and concerns from Metro Transit riders. More than 840 people attended the hearings, and 260 attendees spoke about how the change will affect them.

According to the council, riders felt the fare increase was a better alternative than the loss of service.

“You always have to ask your customers what they think,” said Peter Bell, Metropolitan Council chairman. “We will take the suggestions and access time to implement a decision.”

The council received 3,187 comments by mail, fax, e-mail and comments posted online. The council stopped accepting comments May 1.

The 25-cent fare increase will also result in higher prices for stored value cards. The increase is intended to go into effect July 1.

Metro Transit service cuts

Metro Transit is also considering a number of service reductions to address its budget shortfall. Seventy percent of the service’s bus routes would be affected, and five bus routes that serve the University will change.

The proposed service cuts would not happen until fall.

“Without more money from the state, we really don’t have a lot of choices,” said Mary Hill Smith, Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee chairwoman.

Metro Transit is required to run on a balanced budget, and the proposed fare increases and service changes are intended to correct overspending, Smith said.

The State Legislature is currently meeting to vote on numerous bills, including a transportation bill that might provide the council with more funding. But Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Monday that he is going to push the transportation bill back because of the importance of other bills.

Bell said regardless of what the Legislature does, he anticipates a fare increase and some service cuts.

“It’s just really at what level this will happen,” he said.Eric Cross, a University sophomore, said the fare increase and the service changes would not matter to him much.

“I use the bus to go downtown to the theaters or arenas,” he said. “I think I’ll live with the changes.”

Cross said he uses the Campus Connector to get around campus and the Southwest transit services to get home.

Approximately 3 percent of riders will be affected by the decision, Bell said.

Bell said the council has not yet determined the workforce reduction.

Smith said everything is “still up in the air.

“When legislation makes its decision then we will know where to go from there,” she said.

Reduced summer service to ‘U’

Metro Transit reduced its summer routes to the University on Monday.

These routes will operate at reduced service: 111, 113, 114, 152, 272, 652 and 712. The 115 route will not operate during May or summer sessions.