C-Tran will bump up most fares Thursday

Agency is making hikes more often to avoid bigger jumps

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter



Plan on bringing a little extra change for your bus rides later this week. Most C-Tran fares are going up by a nickel starting Thursday.

If the news sounds familiar, that’s because it is: C-Tran fares also bumped up slightly in May 2008, March 2009 and September 2010. That reflects the transit agency’s recent strategy of spreading out small fare increases to cover rising costs while softening the sudden impact to riders, said C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson.

“You don’t have as much sticker shock, and you try not to lose as much ridership,” Patterson said. “The reality is, each time you increase fares, there is a certain amount of ridership loss that goes along with that.”

This week’s 5-cent fare hike shouldn’t come as a surprise to most riders. The C-Tran board approved the change last April after a month of public comment.

C-Tran isn’t alone: Portland’s TriMet transit system also plans to raise fares on Sept. 1.

The increase comes as C-Tran prepares to ask Clark County voters to boost the local sales tax by 0.2 of a percentage point. The Proposition 1 campaign is just starting to ramp up for the Nov. 8 election, but higher fares aren’t likely to sit well with Proposition 1 opponents who already question C-Tran’s efficiency.

It’s tough to know if higher fares will affect the outcome of the November vote for basic bus service funding, Patterson said. Just as it’s difficult for voters to stomach a sales tax increase, “it’s always difficult to ask for a fare increase,” he said.

Most single-ride cash fares will jump by a nickel. Some of the new rates:

• Adult C-Zone: $1.60.

• Adult All-Zone: $2.45.

• C-Van C-Zone: $1.60.

• C-Van All-Zone: $2.45.

• Honored C-Zone: $0.80.

• Youth C-Zone: $0.80.

• Express: $3.35 (10-cent increase).

The all-zone fare for honored (ages 65 and older, or disabled) and youth (ages 18 and under) riders will remain unchanged at $1.20.

The price of a C-Zone day pass, covering C-Tran’s Clark County service, will jump from $3.75 to $3.85. An Express day pass that includes Portland stops will cost $6.70 starting Thursday, up from $6.50.

The fare changes will bump C-Tran’s revenue by an estimated $201,000 in the next year, according to a March report from Director of Administrative Services Diane O’Regan. C-Tran’s current two-year budget also assumes a “modest” fare increase in September 2012, according to the report.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541 or eric.florip@columbian.com.