Capital Metro considers first fare increases since 2010

Capital Metro is considering changing its fare structure, including raising fares for the first time since 2010.

If approved, the changes would increase the agency's base fare in 2015 from $1 to $1.25 for local bus service and from $2.75 to $3.50 for MetroRail. It would also increase the cost of the seven-day pass from $9 to $11.25 in 2015 and increase the 31-day pass from $30 to $33 in 2014 and increase again to $41.25 in 2015.

Capital Metro could also implement a new premium bus service fare of $1.50 for MetroRapid bus service, which is set to start in early 2014 and provide rapid service on North Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, South Lamar Boulevard and South Congress Avenue. The base cost would increase to $1.75 in 2015.

The recommendations come from consultant Nancy Edmonson, who reviewed the fare objectives adopted by the Capital Metro board of directors in 2011. Those objectives include boosting fare recovery to 20 percent from the current 12 percent and establish equitable fares for all riders and services. She proposes to roll out the recommendations in the next three years.

Edmonson said reaching a 20 percent fare recovery would be difficult. If the board wanted to achieve that goal by fiscal year 2018, she said the board would have to keep increasing fares by 30 percent each year. With the changes she is proposing, the agency could increase its fare recovery rise to about 14 percent.

"Fares would have to move a whole lot to have as much impact as you want," she said. "It takes huge increases to make that fare recovery number move around a whole lot. Maybe it's time for a discussion on what is realistic."

Board Chair Mike Martinez said with the agency's rate structure, he would like to see it stay in the lower end of cost compared to other agencies in the state.

The agency's base fare was 50 cents from 1985 through 2008 and then increased to 75 cents in 2009 and to $1 in 2010. The agency also started charging half-priced fares for seniors and people with disabilities in 2011.

Edmonson said Capital Metro has some breathing room because its fares are so low, and the agency has one of the lowest base fares compared to other peer cities such as Fort Worth; San Antonio; Houston; Denver; Tucson, Ariz. and Kansas City, Mo. Dallas and Sacramento, Calif. have some of the highest base fares at $2.50.

"You have room to go up and not overburden people or be out of line with what your peers are doing," she said.

John-Michael Cortez, Capital Metro's manager of community involvement, said that in the past several months, staff have talked with customers about the challenges and benefits of the agency's current fare structure. Cortez said customers want more convenient options to pay and more places to purchase passes in the community. He said customers like having a $1 fare because it means they do not need change.

Capital Metro will develop a community information and feedback campaign in the next few days regarding the fare structure and increases and roll that out this summer. Staff will report back to the board in September during the fiscal year budget discussion for any fare adjustments to be considered for adoption.

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.



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