Last night, the Transit & Parking Commission voted to increase the current fare from $1.50 to $1.75, a "compromise" over the increase to $2.00 that the Mayor and others wanted. According to Alder Brenda Konkel, the discussion and voting process seemed a little confused and muddled, and no one appeared to be terribly happy with how things went down.
Mayor Dave, in his blog post today regarding the vote, expressed his concerns with the decision. What he said, though, seemed to contradict itself:
My conclusion was (and still is) that the bigger increase was better because the smaller increase is the worst of both worlds: higher fares for, at best, the same service. By going to $2.00 we could actually increase service for the first time in years and provide a lot of other improvements. A smaller increase doesn't get us much; it's just running in place. And it sets us up for the possibility of another fare increase pretty soon with, again, no service expansions.Which is it? The immediate increase to $2 equals expanded service "for the first time in years" and "a lot of other improvements"? Or will it result in "no service expansions" as he suggests would be the case if fares were upped to $2 in a slightly more incremental fashion?
Additionally, is the smaller increase "just running in place," as Mayor Dave suggests here, or will it result in the doomsday scenario recently laid out by Chuck Kamp, Transit General Manager.
Look, I don't doubt that Metro is hurting for funds, and I'm a huge proponent of substantial, efficient, and affordable public transportation. Given the historic upswing in ridership numbers, coupled with the shrinking of the average bus rider's pocketbook, shouldn't we be looking for ways to provide those services that don't place such a large burden on the people most in need?
I strongly suspect that the Mayor, Kamp, and most of the other people directly involved in the life and health of Metro have its best interests in mind, and are working hard on making the most of a pretty crappy situation. The public could stand for slightly more straight-forward answers and information on the subject, though.
We could also stand for a society that placed more emphasis on funding public, mass-transit solutions and less on building huge interstates and propping up those companies that stubbornly insisted on continuing to build gas-guzzling vehicles. Just a thought, anyway, but that's a whole other set of issues.