Are new transit fares fair?


The Metropolitan Council plans to raise Metro Transit fares by 25 cents on October 1 and by an additional 50 cents some time in 2009. The Met Council is hosting a series of eight public hearings on the fare increase from July 6 to July 15.

Your Chance to Speak
Today, Wednesday, July 9: Noon — 1:00 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall – Conference Room 333
350 South Fifth Street, downtown Minneapolis

Today, Wednesday, July 9: – 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Burnsville City Hall – Chambers
100 Civic Center Parkway, Burnsville

Thursday, July 10: 6:30 — 7:30 p.m.
Maplewood Community Center
2100 White Bear Avenue, Maplewood

Monday, July 14: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Eden Prairie City Hall – Heritage Room
8080 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie

Tuesday, July 15: Noon — 1:00 p.m.
Metropolitan Council – Chambers
390 Robert Street North, downtown St. Paul

Tuesday, July 15: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Seward Square Apartments — Meeting Room
2121 South 9th Street, Minneapolis

“We want public feedback,” said Steve Dornfeld, Director of Public Affairs for the council. “The fare increase is not something we propose lightly.”

Katie Eukel, communications manager for Transit for Livable Communities, opposes the fare increases.

“Instead of raising fares we think there are alternatives that could fill the shortfall,” Eukel said. “Transit riders should be aware of these debates.”

Eukel said the Metropolitan Council has a “rainy-day” fund of $19 million set aside for situations like this.

The Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee first proposed the transit fare increase in mid-June.

The proposed raises would increase standard-route bus fares by 25 cents on Oct. 1 and by an additional 50 cents sometime in 2009. They would also increase the fare for disabled people by 50 cents, and would increase Metro Mobility fares to $3.00 during non-rush hours and $4.00 during rush hours.

Current fares for Metro Transit

The council also plans on extending the morning rush-hour period by a half-hour. It would begin at 5:30 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.

Metro Transit stands to lose $15 million in 2009, mostly because of increased fuel costs. Dornfeld said raising transit fares would cover almost half the loss.

“We raised fares in 2005, and since then, fuel costs have more than doubled,” Dornfeld said. “It’s important to understand that labor and fuel make up 85 percent of our operating budget.”

Tanika Johnson, a Minneapolis resident, has taken the bus for around seven years.

“I use it to get to everywhere I gotta go. It’s my car,” Johnson said. “I take it to school, to work, to see friends.”

Johnson said she thought Metro Transit needed to add more routes or buses per route in order to justify any fare increase.

“I think it’s preposterous,” she said.

Both Dornfeld and Eukel were unsure whether or not the public hearings might deter the fare increases.

Eukel said the more people involved in the meetings, the better. “At least the transit riders are being heard in the decision making process,” she said.

Dornfeld was less optimistic “We don’t have a lot of options,” he said.

Patrick Anderson lives and writes in the Twin Cities.