"Another 25 cents, please" may become a common line on Twin Cities buses this fall.
The Metropolitan Council voted Wednesday to raise the fares for riding a bus or train by a quarter. That means starting October 1 the basic fare for a rush hour trip will be $2.50. During off-peak hours it'll be $2.00. Express buses cost a little more and there are discounts for seniors and kids.
The council approved a 50 cent increase for users of Metro Mobility, which provides door-to-door service for riders who are older or disabled. There will also be a new surcharge for Metro Mobility trips farther than 15 miles.
There's a chart comparing the current and future fares for all Metro Transit services here. This is the first time since 2008 that fares have gone up.
Discount for low-income riders
To soften the impact of the fare hike on people living in poverty, Metro Transit will expand a service that lets low-income passengers ride for a dollar. The Transit Assistance Program had been tested on a pilot basis and now the Met Council has approved making it permanent.
Met Council Chair Adam Duinick said in a statement: “This was not an easy vote, but one that was necessary to strengthen the future of transit in our region.”
Budget deficit was looming
Duinick blamed the Legislature for not providing the money to keep up with rising costs.
Looking ahead to the 2020-21 budget cycle, Metro Transit was facing a projected shortfall of about $110 million. As the population ages there's a growing demand for Metro Mobility service, the agency says. Also, one of their sources of money – the tax on car sales – has been falling short of expectations as vehicle sales lag.
Metro Transit provided 96 million rides last year, its numbers show. That was down a little from their peak of 98 million in 2015. They say on an average weekday a quarter-million people ride its buses and trains.
The higher fares are expected to bring in an extra $6.8 million a year, though the Star Tribune notes ridership is projected to fall by 5 percent in response to the fare hike and take a couple of years to recover.