Friday, April 24, 2009

A Fare Shake

As promised, a line-by-line analysis of the new RTA fares. I'm mostly pleased with the outcome of this change. The few exceptions are noted below.

Cash Fares:
General was $1.25, now $1.50
Senior/Disabled was $0.65, now $0.75
Child fares hold at $0.25 each.

These increases were expected, and the RTA seems to have taken the "one big increase" option here. With any luck, this will provide the needed cash influx to stave off service cuts better than the alternative 5%-a-year increase. These prices are in line with the proposed changes that I highlighted back in January, and I still find them prudent.

Day Passes:
General was $3.75, now $4.00
Senior/Disabled was $1.85, now $2.00

Huzzah! Here there be victory! The RTA has changed its policy on exorbitant Day Pass fares, and the cost of the new Day Passes has actually decreased in terms of multiples of base fare. This was my primary objection to January's proposed fare structure, and it seems RTA listened.

7-Day Pass:
Was $12, now $16.00

Well, you win some, you lose some. While still a value compared to 7 day passes, the 7 Day increased by a little over 1 multiple of the base fare. Also, it won't be sold onboard, which limits access to the transit system for what seems to be no reason at all. If anyone at RTA wants to comment on the decision to discontinue onboard sales, let me know.

31-Day Pass:
Was 31 days, now 30
General: was $43, now $50
Senior: was $21, now $23
Youth: was $32, now $35

So, the 30-31 day thing seems petty, but really it's like the job furloughs we're seeing all over. A tiny inconvenience for a lot of people means we avoid a big inconvenience for more. 12 monthly passes now puts you 5 days shy of a year, where it used to put you 7 days over. Not the end of the world. Moreover, every pass is cheaper by at least one multiple of base fare, with the Senior/Disabled pass being an impressive 4.33 multiples cheaper. This is a reasonable response to inflation, and better yet, it takes into account the limited budgets of sensitive riders (seniors, the disabled, and youth).

Cut: 10-Tripper and Annual Pass

As far as the Annual Pass goes, I think this was a failed RTA experiment. I'm betting that not enough riders committed to buying their transportation in 365-day blocks to make it worth their while to offer such a pass. While it was an interesting idea, I don't think that there's anyone being directly hurt by the dropping of the annual pass. If you can afford to drop $450 on a bus pass all at once, you probably don't need the discount provided by the pass. That said, if anyone out there in readerland CAN afford to drop $450 on the annual pass, if you can buy it and validate it before June 28th you can avoid the fare increase for another full year. (K-12 students, it's $375 and seniors and disabled, it's $220.)

The 10 Tripper is being cut, which I think is a mistake. It provided the ease of a bus pass with the commitment of cash fare, and I think it ought to be continued to encourage new riders. I also think it ought to be sold on board. However, if the RTA really didn't see the use out of it, I don't think it's the worst loss we could have suffered.

Suddenly More Expensive: Commuterlink

I don't like it, nor does anyone who rides Commuterlink on a pass. However, the RTA was the only operator in the area to operate an extensive express bus system and then not charge more for it. The last fare increase we saw was the CommuterLink cash fare, and now the pass fare is going up. (Personally, I'm a U-Pass rider, so I get out of it anyway. :D) On the upside, there is now a monthly pass option for those riders who use the 149-Orange County often. Up until now, you'd have to carry an inconvenient $1.65 (exact change!) each way to go along with your pass.
I would urge RTA, in making this move, to ensure that local passes are worth credit towards the express fare. Local riders should swipe their passes and pay $1.50 to ride occasionally. Furthermore, RTA needs to ensure that transfer agreements are in place with all of the systems that CommuterLink comes into contact with (for you planning guys, I'll make it easy: Omnitrans, Foothill, OCTA, NCTD Sprinter & Breeze, NCTD Coaster, Pass Transit, Corona Cruiser and Metrolink)

I'll go ahead and post an analysis of the actual fare changes, for comparison with the one I did of the proposed changes in January.

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