Tucson bus riders protest fare hike proposal - Tucson News Now

Tucson bus riders protest fare hike proposal

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Those who take the bus in Tucson now have a chance to speak up about a plan that could raise their fares this year.

The Tucson City Council moved the proposal to a period of public comment during a study session at the council chambers Wednesday.

One plan would raise the base rate of a single-way bus fare from $1.50 to $1.75 starting in 2015's fiscal year, which begins this July.

Tucson's Transportation Department presented three versions of the plan, one of which is projected to generate up to $2.4 million for the city in a year, according to Carlos DeLeon, deputy director of the transportation.

The proposal stems from a target goal to help close the city's projected $33 million budget deficit. DeLeon said the transportation department alone is looking to shore up $6 million of the budget shortfall in the next fiscal year. One proposal to facilitate this is through the fare increase plan, or consider other options like reducing transit services.

"The $6 million difference has to come from something so we proposed some changes to services," DeLeon said. "The Mayor and council have said that they do not want to entertain that idea of reductions."

The Tucson Bus Riders Union, a community group of local transit riders, held a rally at the council chambers after the meeting.

"our feeling is that they do not need to balance the budget on the backs of poor people, on the backs of bus riders. There's other places they could find the money," TBRU member Brian Flagg said.

Another criticism from TBRU members was that increasing fare would reduce ridership.

"Studies showed that when you raise the fares, or cut the routes, it decreases ridership and it starts decreasing revenue. So you're shooting yourself in the foot by raising the fares," Flagg said.

The transportation department acknowledged the possibility of lower ridership, but DeCarlos pointed out the gains in revenue in the long run and a chance to improve services overall.

"In my experience in transit, most people are willing to pay a little bit more so that they could preserve their mobility options and services than have it reduced," DeCarlos said.

During public comment, the city council will look at any necessary revisions to the proposal and is expected to make a recommendation on the plan at the end of April or early May, followed by a public hearing in June.

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