Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fare Increase is UnFare

You'll pardon the pun, but the RTA has released a new proposal for the upcoming fare increase. They have settled on a single fare structure, and the question they have put forward is: should the fares increase 5% a year over the next 5 years, or 25% this year and then be held constant?

My opinion: 25% now, because we need the funding. However, that won't stop me from poking out some inequalities in the structure they chose. Far from being a simple, proportional 25% increase across the board, the new fare structure raises the cost of passes. I have provided a detailed analysis of the increases here, so you can follow along at home.

Column B is the fares, as they stand now. C is the proposed fare structure. D and E are the prices of each pass, represented in terms of multiples of the base fare. (Senior/Disabled passes are represented as multiples of the Senior/Disabled cash fare, while Youth passes are represented as multiples of the General fare.) F is the increase between the two, still in multiples of base fare.

Did you catch that?

Even when taking into account the base fare increase, from $1.25 to $1.50, the price of the passes go up even more. The most obvious example of this is in the proposed $4.95 day pass. At $3.75, a day pass is equal to the cost of riding three buses. You don't save any money unless you ride more than three buses in a day, but you don't lose any money if you ride exactly three. At $4.95, a day pass costs slightly more than riding three buses in a day. You still save money if you ride four, but you don't break even if you ride three anymore. (Not to mention... $4.95? Who carries four singles, three quarters, and two dimes with them? If you're going to screw us, at least make it a fiver even.)

Take a look, now, at the 10 Tripper pass. Under the current system, it costs 8.8 rides. This means you get 1.2 rides free, as a discount for buying in bulk. This is a GREAT option for occasional riders, who get the convenience and savings of a bus pass without the commitment. But look at the new fare system- a 10 Tripper costs... 10 rides. No more discount. Yeah, it's still nice to have the card rather than having to worry about exact change, but now it's just not nearly as attractive, and I think that's sad. Take away the discount, and it's really no better than cash.

Every other pass now breaks even at a higher point than they used to, but this effect is felt the hardest among the occasional riders- the Day pass and 10 Tripper. Take a look over at column G. This is the number of additional rides required per workday to break even, assuming a 5-day workweek, a 22-day work month, and 12 22-day work months a year, less 10 vacation days. For most of the passes, this is trivial, but for the passes I mentioned, this is a big increase.

RTA, you have managed to take the least loyal of your riders, and give them another reason not to ride the bus. Bravo.

RTA Board Meeting, 2 pm, Thursday. If you're as angry as I am, you'll be there.

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