Metro transit agency invites public to discuss fare increases
Starting Monday, Metro is launching a series of meetings to get the public's views on the best way to increase Metro's fares. The agency has said it needs to a 3.8 percent fare increase to operate. The options include increased prices for:
- Weekly, monthly and semester passes,
- The two-hour ticket, which includes a transfer,
- All fares.
Fare increase options for selected Metro fares
|Fare type||Current Cost||Option 1||Option 2||Option 3|
|2-Hour Pass/ Transfer||$2.75||$2.75||$3.00||$2.85|
Metro has had “very large, irregular fare increases in the past,” said Ray Friem, Metro's chief of operations, in an interview. Now it’s looking “for more regular but smaller increases.”
Currently Metro gets an average of $1.06 a boarding but hopes to raise that average to $1.10. Riders now pay $2 for the bus and $2.25 for MetroLink. Weekly, monthly or student passes reduce the cost for some riders.
“Some people average 80 cents a ride; some average $3 a ride,” Friem said.
The bid for a fare increase comes despite an increase in ridership over last year.
“Our ridership has been growing faster than the fare box revenue has been growing,” Metro head John Nations said in an interview. “What that tells us is people are making an investment in the passes. That's what we call a discounted fare. You can pay $68 a month and ride it an unlimited number of times. If you want to ride it 15 times a day, you can go out and do it.”
That makes Metro wonder if prices for passes are at the “right level,” Nations said. “This is why we want to talk to the public.”
Nations says public opinion will help determine how fares are raised. “We don't know what that structure is going to be and we won't know until we hear from the public,” he said. “I believe in true public hearings. I believe in really listening to the public. Let's give them some options. Let's have a discussion about our fare structure. Let's get some real feedback. Let's have a real dialogue.”
This February, ridership was up 8 percent over February 2011, but many factors affect those numbers, Friem said.
“Last year, we were hit with ice storms and snow storms and that seems to drive people away,” he said. “This year we had almost no snow days. We had no MetroLink shutdown days at all because of weather. This year we had a leap year. We had a whole extra weekday in February. It helps.”
Meanwhile north county Metro riders can look forward to shorter transit times and possibly less time waiting for connections when a new bus transfer center comes online next year.
The center on Pershall Road near Interstate 270 will be “a game changer for how we are able to provide services for north county residents,” said Friem.
Metro recently purchased the site of a former Mazda dealership and plans to convert the building into a facility that might include a small dispatch center, Friem said. Officials are still trying to determine if the location is suited for a dispatch center and hope to have a final plan for the building's redesign in the “next weeks or months,” he said.
This would be the first of three new transfer centers in the county with centers in south and west county coming later.
North county is a logical place for Metro to put a transfer station because the area is within five miles of 20 percent of its ridership, Friem said. “It puts us in the community. Rather than have buses having to come to further points away, we’ll bring them to a combined center to make their transfers to other routes,” he said.
That will also decrease some riders' transit times and give Metro the potential to increase the headways (time between buses).
"Maybe I can be in this community every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes; or every 15 minutes instead of every 20 minutes,” Friem said.
Besides being good for riders, the new transit center will be good for the community in an area where a string of car dealerships have ceased operations, he added. “We’re going to begin the revitalization process of that whole corner of north county.”
Public meetings next week:
5-7 p.m., Mon. April 16
East St. Louis City Hall
301 River Park Drive
East St. Louis
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Wed., April 18
St. Louis City Hall
Rotunda (1st Floor)
1200 Market Street
4-6 p.m., Wed., April 18
St. Louis County Government Center
41 South Central
5-7 p.m., Thurs., April 19 (Presentation at 6 p.m.)
707 North First Street