APTA peer review of Metro fare restructuring proposal

Attentive readers know that last year’s fare increase and changes were part of a larger proposal by Metro staff to raise fares in three stages in coming years.

The Metro Board approved the first of the three fare changes last spring but asked for more information before considering the second and third increases that would take place in 2017 and 2020, respectively. Specifically, the Board wanted a review of Metro fares along with recommendations from an American Public Transportation Assn. panel.

That report is above and a presentation on the report was provided at today’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. I highly encourage you to read the report, which makes a series of recommendations, among them:

•It supports the Board going ahead with the second and third phase of the fare changes.

•And it supports increasing K-12 student fares as originally proposed; the Board last year delayed a decision on student fares until the peer review was complete. The original proposal was for the $1 cash fare to rise to $1.25 and for a student monthly pass to rise from $24 to $29.

•The report also makes a series of recommendations on a variety of issues, among them: studying parking fees at Metro lots at transit stations, increasing the sale of discounted passes to employers and perhaps selling discounted passes not based on time (i.e. you could purchase a number of trips but not have to take them within, for example, a week or month).

•Another interesting proposal: increase the number of tourist passes and even considering selling Metro passes via Groupon.

•Metro should consider running more frequent buses on fewer number of lines — in other words, a more simplified system in which buses show up a lot more often — and also slightly increasing the number of people allowed to stand on a bus before additional service is added.

•There was a brief discussion by the Board and panel members involving distance-based fares. Bottom line: the panel thinks there may be merit in the future on the rail side to adopt distance-based fares to properly charge for some of the long trips that will be possible on a growing system.

I want to emphasize that Metro is not proposing to raise fares during the coming fiscal year that runs from July 1 through June 30, 2016. Nor is the Metro Board required to accept any of the recommendations. The review provides information that the Board wanted to have before making any further decisions and also gives the Board and Metro some things to think about.