'Two-week warning' for metro fare increases

News-DemocratJune 17, 2014 

As promised, Metro fares will increase starting July 1. "This is the two-week warning," said Patti Beck, director of communications at Metro.

The rates will be:

* $2.50 for a one-ride fare, up from $2.25

* $27 for a weekly pass, up from $25

* $78 for a monthly pass, up from $72

* $175 for a semester transit pass, up from $150

Rates will not change for the $2 MetroBus fare, the 2-hour pass/transfer for $3, or the $7.50 day pass or the $4 Metro Call-A-Ride fare.

Metro held a series of public meetings to gain input of how to raise which rates over the last few months, and the Bi-State Development Agency Board of Commissioners approved this plan last month.

Fare increases are necessary, Metro says, because revenue from passengers pays 22 percent of the Metro budget. The remainder is taxpayer-financed. Beck says the increase is necessary to match rising costs in fuel, vehicle maintenance and health insurance for employees.

A handful of MetroLink riders at the Fairview Heights station on Tuesday afternoon were already informed of the increase. Metro has signs posted on the station platforms as well as in the trains.

"I don't like it," said Brenda Russell, of Belleville. "But there's nothing I could do about it."

The long-range plan for Metro finalized in 2009 has stressed gradual fare increases rather than dramatic increases.

Russell said even with the 50-cent increase per round trip, it's still substantially cheaper than driving to her job at Busch Stadium. With her schedule, it makes financial sense for her to purchase the individual fares than the weekly or monthly passes.

Russell works one or two times a week, and will pay $5 each day after July 1. That's still cheaper than parking, she said, and definitely cheaper with the cost of gas as a factor.

The Clarks of Fairview Heights were on their way to the Cardinals game with their three sons and six daughters, ages 17 to 1. The Clarks bought one-time fares for the crew, who was celebrating a daughter's remission from leukemia with Cardinals tickets from Basket of Hope. Steven Clark handed the stack of invalidated return tickets to his wife, Melissa. Steven works in Belleville and the family does not regularly use Metrolink.

"I'd rather passengers pay for it than the taxpayers," he said.

But not all passengers do pay, at least not out of their own pockets. Some area schools provide monthly passes for students. Chondra Brownlee, 19, uses Vaterott-supplied monthly passes on Metro buses and trains five days a week to get from her home in Belleville to school, where she studies cosmetology.

She's used the bus and train system for about a week, since car problems forced her and her mother to share a vehicle.

"Sometimes they run late, but this is my first week trying it," she said.

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