The Madison Transit and Parking Commission heard from members of the public concerning the proposed new bus rates in a meeting Wednesday night.
The public hearing saw both support and opposition for the rate increase, which would raise adult cash and youth cash fares 25 cents. Senior cash fares would be raised 10 cents.
However, the most debated element was the raise of senior/disabled 31-day passes from $27.50 to $40. Peter Wolf, a member of the public who spoke at the meeting, said he believes the change is not compliant with the history of the system.
“People that use that kind of pass, seniors that use that kind of pass, I expect are very likely to be low-income also,” Wolf said. “But for some reason, the new proposed pricing is completely out of line with the past figuring for senior fares.”
According to a Parking and Transit Commission fact sheet, the fares are being raised because every City of Madison agency was asked for a five percent tax levy reduction. The Metro staff maintains that the only way to meet that reduction was to reduce service expenses or add revenue.
The city believes that because the buses are already overcrowded, decreasing service is not an option, according to the fact sheet. Thus, the city has decided it must raise fares. The fact sheet says the expected revenue to be gained from this raise nears $686,600.
Daman Tarrow, who spoke to the public, believes the city can be more creative.
“I think that the people here are too damn smart,” Tarrow said. “We have the resources to figure this out. We just have to be creative enough and powerful enough and willing to do it.“
In terms of the senior/disabled 31-day pass, the city maintained that it loses money by offering the pass at such discounted rates. The city estimates it loses about $68,000 for offering an unlimited 31-day pass, according to the fact sheet.
Metro rider Rosemary Lee said she believes the raise is reasonable. She said the economic period is difficult and metro riders cannot expect rates to stay as they are. Still, she believes the summer youth pass should be modified to only exist when summer school is in session.
“I probably have the odd opinion about this because I’m in favor of the bus fare increases and I am metro-dependent,” Lee said. “I think it’s reasonable to expect metro increases. It has been since 2009 that fares increased, and most all services have increased at least once. “
Still, Madison is not the only area affected by raising the rates. Routes to both Fitchburg and Middleton would be affected.
Steve Arnold, who serves on the Fitchburg Common Council as well as the Fitchburg Transportation and Transit Commission, also noted the increases do not seem to take contracted partners into account .
“Contracted services partners pay a proportional cost of running the system,” Arnold said. “A fare change in Madison’s budget affects all other partners. I don’t propose that each partner set its own rates. Rather I urge fares to be set in a collaborative manner that takes into account the policy goals of each of the partners.”
The proposed rates are set to go into effect Jan. 1st, 2013. The Parking and Transit Commission will give consideration to all of the comments put forth at the public hearing.