The public will soon get the chance to comment on a proposed fare hike for Metro Transit buses, light rail, Northstar commuter rail and Metro Mobility service.

After months of deliberation, the Metropolitan Council took the first tangible step to raising fares by voting Wednesday to hold a series of public meetings. This doesn't mean a fare hike will happen, however.

Faced with a $74 million deficit, proposed cuts in state funding and a decline in tax receipts, the regional planning body is looking to generate more revenue — though a fare hike alone won't solve the cash crunch.

Metro Transit, which provided more than 82 million rides last year, hasn't increased fares since 2008. Even so, the proposed hike has met with resistance from transit users.

The council is pitching several scenarios, including across-the-board fare increases of 25 cents or 50 cents for bus service as well as for light- and commuter- rail service. Metro Mobility, the federally mandated transportation service for disabled people, could see an increase of 50 cents or 75 cents.

For the average transit user, who takes 40 rides a month, a 25-cent increase would cost $10 more a month. A 50-cent increase would mean a $20-a-month increase.

Transit advocates who oppose a fare increase have already mobilized.

Black clergy in the Twin Cities plan a news conference in north Minneapolis Thursday to urge "fellow Christian legislators" at the Capitol to reconsider transit cuts. The group claims a decrease in transit service and a fare increase would hit hardest for the financially vulnerable, elderly, disabled and transit dependent.

An advocacy group called Transportation Forward is planning a rally Tuesday at the Green Line Capitol/Rice Street station in St. Paul.

Increasing fares (now $1.75 to $2.25 for peak travel for bus and LRT) by 25 cents would raise an additional $6.9 million the first year, but ridership is projected to decrease 4.7 percent as a result. Likewise, raising fares 50 cents would raise $12.8 million the first year, with a ridership loss of 8.9 percent. Increasing Metro Mobility fares could raise between $11.63 million and $12.84 million over the next two years, respectively.

The Met Council figures it will take up to two years for riders to return to the transit system following an increase.

A series of 12 public meetings is planned, beginning May 11, as well as "pop up" meetings with transit users at bus stops and LRT stations. The council will also accept feedback by mail and e-mail (public.info@metc.state.mn.us) and by phone (651-602-1500). More information here.