MO: Riders Discuss Metro Fare Hike Plans in Sparsely Attended Hearings

April 19--Metro transit riders turned out to two sparsely attended public meetings Wednesday to learn more about three options to raise fares an average of 5 percent.

Joyce Walton of Fairview Heights, who is disabled, does not have to pay now to ride Metro. But if she does have to pay, she would prefer an increase that wouldn't require carrying an assortment of coins.

"I don't like having to carry around all that change," Walton said during a meeting at St. Louis City Hall. "It's going to take too long for people to get on the bus because they are going to have to count too many small coins."

Walton understands the need to increase fares at a time when fuel costs are going up.

Metro's governing board must first approve any fare increase, which would take effect on July 1.

Michael Bell Jr. of St. Louis, a substitute teacher and student, rides MetroLink and transit buses every day. Bell purchases a monthly pass, which would cost $4 to $7 more a month than it does now. Bell prefers the option that would increase it to $72 from $68.

Metro President and CEO John Nations said the customers who ride Metro pay about 20 percent of the overall operating costs. Those operating costs are rising.

"We want to be sure that our fare structure is fair and reasonable both to the people who ride the system and also to the taxpaying public who funds 80 percent of the cost to begin with," Nations said during the second meeting, held at the St. Louis County Government Center in Clayton.

The agency's long-range plan calls for a review of possible fare increases every year instead of larger, infrequent price increases.

Two of the agency proposals do not raise base cash fares, which would potentially hit low-income riders. Instead, those proposals would increase the costs of daily, monthly or weekly passes. A third option would increase costs 5 percent across the board.

Metro held a similar meeting Monday in East St. Louis and will host a two-hour meeting today at its headquarters at 707 North First Street in St. Louis.

Copyright 2012 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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