Transit riders who rely on weekly, monthly and semester passes will pay more to use the Metro system beginning July 1 under a series of targeted fare increases the agency approved on Friday.
Though the one-way cash bus fares will remain unchanged at $2, it soon will cost an extra 25 cents to ride MetroLink one way, or $2.50.
The combined effect of the fare increase and projected growth in passenger boardings is expected to result in additional revenue of $2.25 million during the first 12 months the new fares are in effect.
Metro planners "need to find the revenue to run the system," said Ray Friem, the chief operating officer. "I don't want to chase away people. I want to create a fare structure that still continues to invite more people (to) the system."
Metro considered three proposals, all of which increased the price of a monthly transit pass to amounts ranging from $78 to $80. A monthly pass now costs $72.
The price of weekly passes and university semester passes will go up, too.
Two of the proposals — including the one the board approved on Friday — would increase the one-way MetroLink cash fare to $2.50 from its current $2.25.
The two-hour pass for people who purchase MetroLink tickets at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will remain at $4.
During a series of public meetings throughout the region, some riders complained that it was unfair to increase fares during a weak economy.
Nearly 300 people commented on the fare increases, and about 65 percent of those who weighed in preferred the fare increase proposal that ultimately was adopted.
Friem said the agency's business plan called for a series of regular but smaller fare increases instead of waiting to impose larger price hikes. It averages about 2 percent a year.
"In the past, we would wait to have a fare increase until we were at some kind of breaking point," Friem said. "The fare increase would be 10, 12, 15 percent and usually was accompanied by a service cut.
"We were put in the position of saying we need more for less."
Under the new fare structure, Metro also will offer transportation passes for secondary school students who use transit to get to school, Friem said. It would be similar to semester passes that are made available to colleges, and be sold directly to the schools.
Ken Leiser is the transportation writer at the Post-Dispatch. Read his Along for the Ride column online [http://www.stltoday.com/news/traffic/along-for-the-ride/] and every Sunday in the newspaper.
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