SunVan fare increase faces opposition - Tucson News Now

SunVan fare increase faces opposition

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The fare for a ride on SunVan is now $1. In October that may go to $2.

But it doesn't stop there.

Next July, it may also go up again, to $3.

SunVan is likely the most subsidized transit system in Tucson.

It caters to the handicapped, wheelchair bound and poor, less than $1200 a month in earnings.

So a hike from one to three dollars is substantial.

But so is the subsidy.

It costs $28.75 to pick up and deliver the SunVan rider.

"That's why it jumps out," says Ward III council member Karin Uhlich. "It's one of the few areas in our budget which has grown during the downturn in the economy."

SunVan is different from the SunTran system which has a schedule of times and routes. SunVan users generally call for assistance which makes it more expensive and one reason the city is looking to close the gap.

The proposal, and it's just that right now, will be discussed at the Tucson city council meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

The city is looking for ways to cut its subsidy for transit which has grown to $44 million in the past few years and will likely grow again in 2015 when the city begins paying for the modern streetcar.

"They're the elderly people, the disabled, people who are on a fixed income like I am," says Charlotte Stacker, who is wheelchair bound. "They can't pay more money. They're trying to pinch pennies now."

But some city leaders will argue they have been trying to pinch pennies too.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, it has forced them to lay off more than a thousand employees, cut city services and refuse all but minimal pay increases to the workers still on board.

With the streetcar subsidy, a soon to be large increase in pension outlays, especially for police and fire, and a slow economic recovery, the city is looking for a few dollars here and there.

One place may be the state of Arizona, which has cut it's lottery funding to Tucson.

For decades, Tucson relied on lottery funds for $2 to $3 million a year in transportation funding.

But that funding was swept, also during the Great Recession.

While Phoenix has had its lottery funding restored, Tucson has not.

Which is why the subsidy stands out.

"It is one area in our budget where we're had to invest more because of cuts at the state level," Uhlich says.

Brian Flagg, an advocate for the poor, says he will have a large contingent of opposition at the city council meeting.

"It's like persecuting people who are already suffering," he says.

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