Metro-East News

Madison County Transit considers increases

Two or three times a week, Collinsville resident Derek Wilson takes a Madison County Transit shuttle and pays $1 for each trip. Riders like Wilson may have more expensive trips later this summer.

For Wilson, paying more is something he probably could afford, but he prefer the fares stay the same.

“I’m not always going to like it, but you got to do what you got do,” Wilson said. “I like to keep most of my money in my pocket.”

Madison County Transit is considering options on possible fare increases, according to transit system documents.

The transit system last increased fares in 2009. However, proposed state funding cuts in the Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget have led to the fare increase discussion, said SJ Morrison, the director of marketing and planning for Madison County Transit.

“With a potential decrease in funding looming, we’re looking at ways to make up for that loss in revenue,” Morrison said.

Madison County Transit could see an $8.6 million cut to its annual mass transit appropriation from the state as part of the governor’s 2016 fiscal year budget proposal.

Morrison said MCT, which had 2.6 million boards in its 2014 fiscal year, has had some of the lowest fares in the region, state and Midwest.

“It’s also important to us to make sure we’re not only providing good service to our customers, (but) we’re being compensated for that service,” Morrison said.

Currently, cash paying riders are charged between $1 to $3 depending on the type of ride they take.

There are four options being considered.

For people who pay fares with cash, the district is looking at a 50-cent increase, a 75-cent increase, increasing the regional base fare by a $1, or a 50 percent increase.

Under the 50-cent increase option, the 75-cent regional transfer charge would decrease to 50 cents. Under the 75-cent increase scenario, the regional transfer charge would decrease to 25 cents.

The other options would lead to free regional transfers.

Under all the scenarios, local transfers would remain free.

For monthly pass options, proposed increases to the $40 local pass and the $60 system pass range from $5 to $12.

For the monthly $15 student pass, one option calls for keeping the price the same. It also could see a $3 to $5 increase.

The summer youth pass would remain free of charge.

Morrison said 17 percent of riders don’t pay any fares, because they meet certain low-income requirements and either have a disability or are at least 65 years old.

Richard McFarland, of Collinsville, takes the bus at least once a month as he looks for work. On Friday, he was returning from the library after doing some research.

He said MCT’s proposed increases appear to be reasonable as the system and its vehicles need to be maintained.

“I’d be supportive of them,” McFarland said. “They’re not all that much (and) they’re there to help the overall continued service to the St. Louis area.”

With the fare increases, the transit district does anticipate a short-term cash fare ridership loss as some people may initially stop using public transit before returning to the system, Morrison said. Depending on which option is selected, the loss could range from $101,400 to $202,800.

The transit agency also could see a drop in annual pass sales ranging between 218 and 663 passes, according to district estimates.

However, the transit district estimates it will have a net revenue gain of $209,731 to $331,643 in the first year, depending on which option is selected.

Last year, Metro increased MetroLink single fares from $2.25 to $2.50, weekly passes from $25 to $27, monthly passes from $72 to $78, and the semester pass from $150 to $175. MetroBus fares were not changed.

Although fare increases would need to be approved by the Bi-State Development Agency Board of Commissioners, Metro has said it plans to raise fares by a small percentage approximately every two years to keep up the transit system’s capital and operating needs, according to its website.

Periodic small increases have not been discussed by the Madison County Transit board, Morrison said.

Prior to a board vote, MCT has scheduled open houses on June 2, 3 and 4 to discuss and gather public comments on the proposed fare increases. Public comments then will be presented to the Madison County Board on June 25.

A fare increase, if approved, is proposed to go into effect on Aug. 16.

Morrison acknowledged any change could be challenging.

“It’s been my experience our passengers are reasonable, value the service and they will be honest with us. That’s what we want,” Morrison said. “We need to hear how this will affect people.”

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at jbustos@bnd.com or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.

Madison County Transit open houses

▪  10 to 11:30 a.m. June 2 at the Highland City Council Chambers at 1115 Broadway

▪  3 to 4:30 p.m. June 2 at the Alton station

▪  10 to 11:30 a.m. June 3 at the Granite City station

▪  3:30 to 5 p.m. June 3 at the Collinsville station

▪  10 to 11:30 a.m. June 4 at the Wood River station

▪  4 to 5:30 p.m. June 4 at the Edwardsville station

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