The Metropolitan Council's proposal to raise bus fares drew more than 6,000 comments, and not surprisingly, the majority were against a plan to tack on another 25 or 50 cents per ride on regular-route bus service and light- and commuter- rail service.
Metro Mobility, the federally mandated transportation service for disabled people, and dial-a-ride transit services also would see an increase of 50 cents or 75 cents under plans presented last spring.
During a 10-week public comment period between April and June, the council received more than 4,400 emails, letters and postcards. Another 1,600 people filled out an online survey.
Those comments will be part of the discussion July 24 when the Transportation Committee meets to vote on a potential fare hike that would impact Metro Transit riders and those on other regional transit systems. If approved, the measure would move onto the full council for a vote on July 26.
The topic of raising bus fares rose last year when the council revealed it faced a $74 million shortfall and needed to raise revenue and possibly cut services to help balance the budget.
A 25-cent increase in regular-route transit fares would provide an additional $6.7 million in revenues during the first 12 months, the Met Council said. But the price would be a loss of an estimated 3.8 million riders. A 50-cent increase in Metro Mobility fares would raise $1.3 million in additional revenue during the first year.
Any fare increase could cost the average commuter who takes 40 rides a month $10 to $20 more per month.
Commenters expressed concern that a fare hike would hurt low-income riders. Commenters who classified themselves as low income said they would struggle to pay for transit and would likely take fewer trips.
Others said they could afford an increase but would choose other transportation options such as biking, walking or driving when possible. Some worried that if too many people ditched public transportation, the roads would become more congested and diminish environmental benefits transit delivers.
For those okay with a fare increase, many said there should not be any service cuts if they are enacted.
Transit fares were last raised in 2008.
The council also is grappling with how to cover more expenses with revenue at the fare box. Currently it is capturing a lower percentage of revenue through transit fares than it has historically, and that rate has fallen below the Council’s operating goal of 28.5 percent.