Fare-payers on Madison County Transit District bus system will be paying a little more beginning Aug. 16 .
The district board on Thursday increased fares for the first time since 2009. The MCT shuttle, cross county and express fares will increase by 50 cents each, to $1.50, $2 and $3.50 respectively.
The MCT regional fare will increase to $3 from $2.
Local transfers will remain free, and regional transfers will now be free. They are currently 75 cents.
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People who use a monthly local or system pass will see an increase of $10, to $50 and $70 respectively.
The monthly student pass will increase to $20 from $15.
Madison County Transit projects the new rates will bring in about $250,000 a year. Managing director Jerry Kane said the district started to look at fare increases when the governor proposed making cuts to public transportation.
“It is apparent we have not addressed our fares since 2009, as a public body it’s prudent we do so,” Kane said. “These fares are user fees and pay a portion of the cost of providing the service and allows us to leverage state operating assistance and other federal grants.”
The transit district is subsidized by the state government.
SJ Morrison, the director of marketing and planning for the transit district, said Madison County Transit has the lowest fares in the region.
Even though Board Chairman Dan Corbett ultimately supported the fare increases, he had concerns about the cost for people earning minimum wage, and said poor people are most likely to use the shuttle fare.
“It’s a 50 percent increase for the most likely fare to be used by poor people,” Corbett said. “I don’t know why we made the highest percent of increase to the least affordable people. ... They’re not the group that’s going to have the monthly pass. They’re the group that’s going to scramble for $1 or $1.50 to ride the bus.”
Responding to the concerns, Kane said for someone who is being paid minimum wage for 30 hours a week, the 50-cent increase would cost 2.5 to 2.6 percent of their wages. A 50-cent increase to the shuttle fare also was the lowest increase initially proposed by the district.
Kane also pointed out that 18 percent of riders don’t pay anything at all and have fares paid for by the state because they qualify for assistance because they are seniors, low income or disabled. Madison County Transit’s base fare is still lower than St. Clair County’s base fare.
In addition to the fare increases, Madison County Transit is now considering new types of ride passes.
District officials proposed a two-hour regional pass for $3. It would allow for unlimited multi-directional rides on all MCT fixed routes, MetroBus routes and MetroLink trains for two hours. Metro currently offers a two-hour pass.
“What this does, it eliminates transfers, (and) it eliminates upgrades,” Morrison said. “Today there are a lot of transfer scenarios. It’s cumbersome for our operators, it creates confusion, it slows boarding times, it creates driver-passenger conflict. This eliminates all of that.”
MCT also is proposing an express round-trip pass for $5, which would only be good on express routes, for round-trip service for one day.
The transit district also recommended a $2 two-hour shuttle pass that would allow for unlimited multi-directional rides on MCT shuttle routes for two hours.
MCT board member Ed Hagnauer, who also is the Granite City mayor, had concerns about whether two hours was enough time for riders, especially those who are older, to board a bus, travel somewhere, do their shopping or other errands, and get back on the bus.
“I would think it would be like a three-hour deal,” Hagnauer said.
Kane said during planned open houses, people will be asked about the price of the pass, as well as the duration of the passes.
“The concept of the passes will benefit many users, allow them to make trips today that they’re paying multiple fares,” Kane said.
Morrison said more people are using the local shuttle.
“There are a lot of folks using that (shuttle) just to get around their community, to go to the grocery store, to go to the barber, to go to the doctor, to go to Target or Walmart,” Morrison said. “If they can do that trip within two hours that is a benefit.”
“We think this will bring value to them, we think this will increase their mobility,” Morrison added.
District officials plan to hold open houses from July 20 through 23 in Collinsville, Alton, Edwardsville, Wood River and Granite City to gather public input on the options.
If the proposed new passes are approved by the board, the transit district would implement them in November.
This second phase of the fare adjustment, would roll out at the same time as the roll out of the district’s new fare collection system.
“We are concerned in making sure our fares are reasonable for the transit-dependent, for those who depend on the service the most,” Morrison said.