C-Tran near approval of 2012 fare increases

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter



Public meeting

What: Hearing on C-Tran proposal to increase fares.

When: 5:30 p.m. May 8.

Where: Fisher’s Landing Transit Center, 3510 S.E. 164th Ave.

Information: C-Tran. Online comments can be submitted at the same site.

For the fifth-straight year, C-Tran has proposed raising fares for most of its riders.

The plan follows the transit agency’s recent strategy of spreading out regular -- but modest -- fare increases to cover rising costs without a huge up-front impact to riders. This year’s proposal would bump the cost of most single rides by a nickel. C-Tran increased fares in May 2008, March 2009, September 2010 and September 2011.

“Since we’ve gone to this pattern of kind of doing the small, incremental increases each year, it’s actually easier for people to absorb that,” said Scott Patterson, C-Tran’s public affairs director.

So far, the latest round of fare hikes hasn’t drawn an overwhelming response from riders. Recent open-house meetings on the subject have drawn no more than a handful of people, and the agency has collected about a dozen formal comments. The C-Tran board could approve the fare increases as early as next week, but not before one more public hearing as part of the May 8 meeting.

C-Tran officials acknowledge that any fare increase reduces ridership. Several commenters indicated last month that the rates are already higher than they could afford, and urged C-Tran to reconsider or delay the next raise. A C-Tran citizen advisory committee last month recommended approving the fare increase.

Most single-ride fares would go up by a nickel. Among the new proposed rates:

Adult C-Zone: $1.65

Adult All-Zone: $2.50

C-VAN C-Zone: $1.65

C-VAN All-Zone: $2.50

Honored All-Zone: $1.25

Youth All-Zone: $1.25

Express: $3.50 (15-cent increase)

Single C-Zone fares for honored (ages 65 and older or disabled) and youth (18 and younger) riders would remain unchanged at 80 cents. Single fares for special events would also stay flat at $2.

A C-Zone day pass, covering C-Tran’s Clark County service, would cost $4 under the proposal, up from $3.85. An Express day pass that includes Portland stops would jump from $6.70 to $7. Both of those increases are larger than what C-Tran enacted for the same passes last year.

The latest fare proposal comes on the heels of a voter-approved sales tax hike, which took effect April 1. If approved, the new fare rates would begin Sept. 1. C-Tran’s current two-year budget assumes fare increases in both 2011 and 2012.

The fare increase is expected to generate an additional $300,000 per year in revenue, according to C-Tran.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.