25-cent Metro fare increase proposed
King County Metro Transit fares would go up 25 cents starting Oct. 1, to keep up with rising diesel fuel prices, under a proposal announced by County Executive Ron Sims.
Seattle Times transportation reporter
Just as thousands of new riders are trying out King County Metro Transit, the agency is planning to boost fares by 25 cents this fall.
The proposed increase, to begin Oct. 1, is meant to offset the skyrocketing price of diesel fuel, said County Executive Ron Sims, who announced the plan Thursday morning.
It would be the second fare increase this year. Metro raised prices a quarter in March to catch up with inflation. Before that, fares hadn't gone up since 2001.
If approved, the new fares would be $2 for a single-zone ride at peak times, or $2.50 for a two-zone trip across the Seattle city limits.
Monthly passes would rise $9 a month, while employer-subsidized FlexPasses would increase 12 to 15 percent. Youth fares of 75 cents and senior fares of 50 cents would stay the same. Access van rides for people with disabilities would increase a quarter, to $1. People who already have a yearly pass can keep using them, without paying a surcharge, said Jill Krecklow, county transportation finance manager.
The increases, which require approval by the Metropolitan King County Council, have been endorsed by the council's transportation committee chairman, Dow Constantine, D-West Seattle.
Sims said he refuses to reduce bus service or delay new bus-rapid transit routes planned in the early 2010s for Federal Way-to-SeaTac, Overlake, West Seattle, Ballard, and Aurora Avenue North.
In fact, Metro is sticking with a short-term plan for more runs on some crowded Seattle routes this September, as well as added service in the Snoqualmie Valley and Southeast King County. The new buses are funded by Transit Now sales taxes, approved by voters in 2006.
Currently, Metro provides about 400,000 trips per day. Ridership grew 7 percent in the past year, fastest among major U.S. bus agencies, said general manager Kevin Desmond. Many buses are now standing-room-only.
"We're not going to curtail service — not when you have the demand we have," Sims said.
Passenger fares cover about one-fifth of bus operating costs. Metro relies mainly on a sales tax, nine-tenths of a cent for every $1 purchase, and also receives some federal aid.
Fuel costs have caused a potential $36 million budget gap for 2008-09, according to Metro. A fare increase would cover only $13 million of that, while recent ridership gains add about $5 million. Unexpectedly high sales-tax income brings $12 million more. Higher fares would buy time to look for cost savings next year, said Desmond.
The Sims proposal would bring back advertising wraps that partially cover bus windows — a controversial feature that makes the ride seem dark and claustrophobic to some riders. Metro says those ads would yield $400,000 a year.
Like many agencies, Metro predicted diesel prices of $2.60 per gallon this year. Instead, the average is likely to be $3.86 this year and $4.32 next year, said Krecklow. Metro has suspended purchases of biodiesel, which surpassed $6 a gallon, Desmond said.
About half the nation's transit agencies are raising fares, while others have trimmed service, one national survey found.
Community Transit in Snohomish County is proposing increases ranging from 25 cents to 75 cents on Oct. 1, while Kitsap Transit will raise fares 25 cents next month. Pierce Transit, whose fleet runs on cheaper compressed natural gas, is not proposing increases.
Sound Transit is somewhat vulnerable to rising diesel costs but can ride out this year without a fare boost. Portland's Tri-Met has announced a 25-cent increase, starting Sept. 1.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631
|King County fare increase|
|King County Metro Transit proposes these fare increases Oct. 1. This is a partial list, for adult bus riders. A two-zone ride is a trip that crosses Seattle city limits.|
after Oct. 1
|Two zones, peak hours||$2.25||$2.50|
|One zone, peak hours||$1.75||$2|
|Monthly pass, two zones, peak||$81||$90|
|Monthly pass, one zone, peak||$63||$72|
More details at http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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