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Getting on the Bus, May Set You Back

By: Mike Johnson
By: Mike Johnson

If you ride Metro Transit, you may be looking at higher fares later this year.

There's a proposal to raise the basic fare from $1.50 to $1.65. Other fares would likely go up as well.

Metro's budget squeeze comes at a time when rising gasoline prices may encourage motorists to look at mass transit.

"Got rid of the car when I realized how expensive it was and just take the bus," says Colleen Swartz. Instead of owning a car, she spends $39 a month on a bus pass, and rides it everywhere.

So what would she do if fares go up? "Still cheaper than owning a car and driving a car. I still ride the bus," says Swartz.

That's what Metro administrators want to hear. But at some point, raising fares could have an impact on ridership.

There is always that concern that when you increase fares, you will lose riders. However, for the most part, our riders are telling us they would rather increase fares than not have service," says Julie Maryott-Walsh, Metro spokesperson.

Several riders told us it is the level of service that's important.

"As long as we had the same amount of service. I think that would be more important than 15 cents to me personally."

Metro is under financial pressure on three sides. Expenses are climbing about three percent a year, that includes labor and expensive diesel that keeps the busses running. "Fuel which is one of our major costs is kind of sky rocketing right now," says Maryott-Walsh.

Plus, there's only a two percent increase in transit funding expected from the state next year.

"When we combine the inflationary pressures with lack of new state resources, something's got to give so we've got to look at all the options," says Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

But the mayor says raising fares is the wrong strategy, as some people look for alternatives to high gas prices. And he wants Metro to look for new money. "I've encouraged Madison Metro to look at advertising at the bus transit points and bus stops where there are shelters," he says.

Some riders understand dealing with higher expenses. "Hey, you can't do nothing about that. Look at gas prices, I can see why its raising up."

Others say fares are high enough already. "I think it would be wrong if they raise the fares. It wouldn't be right at all."

A lot depends on how much more comes from the state. Madison Metro will probably get the answer later this summer.


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