Metro Transit fares could climb in July

The price of a U-Pass might increase if Metro Transit raises its fares.

Jason Juno

First-year medical student Erine Fong uses her U-Pass to get to the University from her home near Dinkytown.

But Fong might see an increase in the cost of her pass.

Rides on Metro Transit buses or light rail trains might cost more in July, because transit officials are looking for ways to pay for the service.

The U-Pass cost could go up if rates go up, but it would not go up this semester, said Mary Sienko, University Parking and Transportation Services marketing manager.

Fong said a fare increase on single bus or light rail trips wouldn’t affect her, but she doesn’t want to see the U-Pass price go up.

She said that she would probably still buy a U-Pass because driving is “too expensive.”

Rate increase possible

Metro Transit officials are looking at current price levels to determine whether they are correct and how well bus routes are performing, said Bonnie Kollodge, a Metropolitan Council spokeswoman.

Paying for the transit system is also difficult, she said. Growth in revenue on a tax that funds transit was less than officials thought it would be, Kollodge said. Also, fuel and health-care costs are increasing, she said.

“There’s going to be a significant funding challenge,” she said. “They’re going to look at what is a reasonable fare and a reasonable place to cut.”

Metro Transit should have a rates recommendation by next week, Kollodge said. Public meetings are scheduled April 12-20 in the metro area.

The Metro Council must decide on any rate increases. If the rate is increased, it might go into effect July 1, she said.

It would be the first fare increase for the whole transit system since 2001, according to a council press release.

If prices go up, it will not be because of the addition of light rail, Kollodge said. Light rail has increased transit ridership by 4 percent for January and February compared with the same period last year.

During the same time frame, bus ridership was down approximately 4 percent from 2004, before last spring’s transit strike, she said.

Although the bus strike ended less than a year ago, the transit workers’ contract will expire again July 31, which could affect an increase, Kollodge said.

She said council Chairman Peter Bell is hopeful a contract will be completed without stopping the transit system again.

U-Pass could cost more

A U-Pass rate increase would not start until fall semester, Sienko said. The U-Pass went up to $55 for the 2004-05 school year, after three years of no increases, she said.

Parking and Transportation Services sets U-Pass prices. Its contract with Metro Transit allows everything to be renegotiated, including the price, she said.

Generally, a fare increase means ridership will fall, said David Levinson, a professor in the civil engineering department.

If the U-Pass fares are not affected by general fare hikes, the increase might cause more students to buy U-Passes, he said.

But if U-Pass prices go up, fewer students would buy them, Levinson said.