A plan to increase bus fares in Madison in is catching heat from city officials.

Even though the proposed increase in bus fares in Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2013 operating budget could pose problems for low-income individuals, it may be the only way Madison Metro can operate without cutting any of its services.

The proposed budget would raise base fares from $2 to $2.25, said Mick Rusch, marketing and customer service manager for Madison Metro.

Soglin said the increase in bus fares would bring in $600,000 for the city of Madison. He said the increase will help cover a portion of the cost of expanding the bus system, which will happen over the next few years, and increasing fuel costs.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, told the Wisconsin State Journal she is trying to eliminate the measure. She did not returns phone calls for this story.

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said he has great concerns for the
long-term impacts to the Route 80 bus services and low-income members of
the community who use bus fares for work. He said a small fare increase
can have very detrimental effects over the years and could be
devastating to a low-income individual.

The increase in bus fares will not immediately affect the Route 80
bus service because the route’s contract is set for multiple years,
Resnick said. He said the increase would start having an impact in
future years when its contract is renegotiated.

“If we can get the budget into a place where we are being fiscally
responsible and provide the same services, then I will [be in opposition to bus
fare increases],” Resnick said. “The challenge is how to get to that
point.”

Rusch said Soglin proposed all city agencies decrease their budget by 5 percent, requiring Madison Metro to either reduce services or increase fares.

Madison Metro predicts ridership will increase next year by 0.9 percent if the proposed increase in bus fares become a part of the budget.

“We’re not looking to increase fares,” Rusch said. “But this is one of those things where decreasing services doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. As a department of the city of Madison, we should be part of solving Madison’s budget challenges, part of solving the problem.”

Rusch said in 2011, Madison Metro had a 40-year high in ridership: a record 14.9 million bus rides, which was a 9.5 percent increase from the year before.

Madison Metro made it easier to ride the bus with resources such as a mobile phone app for trip planning and a GPS on buses so riders know exactly when a bus will arrive, Rusch said. The increase in gas prices, young people driving less and an environmentally aware community have all helped create a national trend of people flocking to mass transit, he said.

Rusch said anyone is able to visit mymetro.com and click on “proposed fare increase” under “fare options” to fill out a public testimony.

Rusch said there will be a public hearing on the issue Nov. 7, a few days before the City Council meeting Nov. 13, where members will decide whether the bus fare prices will increase.

“Anyone who has thoughts on the issue should attend,” he said. “This will sway opinions. We want people to speak.”