More Money for a Bus Ticket?

It’s only been two years since Metro last raised its fares, but two years ago is also when the econony began to take a turn for the worse. Now Metro says another fare increase is a possibility. Bill Stamps has more.

Houston resident Bre Love uses the bus and the rail line to get to work and school.

“I normally come here, then I get on the bus which is a $1.25. If you have the Q card, then it transfers, but we don’t have day passes anymore, we don’t have transfer tickets.”

Love says a modest fare increase wouldn’t make her trip unaffordable, but she still doesn’t see why it’s necessary.

“It already went up to a $1.25 and…I don’t know, I don’t think we can really afford it to go up anymore.”

Metro isn’t saying fares are definitely going up. The transit agency is basically keeping its options open as they look for ways to make up for a decrease in revenue. Acting CEO George Greanias says Metro is simply being open with the public and letting them know all options are being explored.

“Every source of revenue every potential source of revenue, every expenditure, every potential expenditure. And one of the things you look at is whether or not you should adjust your fares. The fact is we look at that the same way we look at should we cut service. Should we adjust maintenance programs? Should we slow up some capital projects? Things are all things we look at.”

The loss in revenue isn’t because of fewer riders, it’s because of a loss in sales tax dollars. Metro gets a penny for every dollar of sales tax in the areas that it serves. So even though houston’s economy is doing better than other cities, people have still been spending less the past two years. Greanias says that money has to be made up somewhere.

“Where the fare increase issue comes in is, alright, at the end of the day if we want to give this level of service, can we do it without a fare increase, or if we were to do a fare increase, can we enhance it some way.”

Two weeks ago, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and National Transit Workers Union leaders came to Houston to rally for legislation they said would save bus drivers’ jobs, keep fares from going up and services from being cut. At the time, some questioned why rally in Houston when things here are much better. Greanias says Houston is better off.

“If you look at other transit agencies around the country, they are in economic climates that are worse than ours. The other thing that Metro has going for it is the financial planning done here was more conservative and so although there’s been a downturn, the impact on the authority has not been as severe.”

Metro’s Board will finalize next year’s budget in Septemeber. That’s when we should know for sure if the price of a bus ticket will go up.

Bill Stamps, KUHF News.