CA: Napa transit agency moving to increase Vine Transit bus fares

March 1, 2024
The Napa Valley Transportation Authority board recently gave initial approval to a Vine Transit fare increase to help cover a rise in operational costs over the past decade.

Feb. 29—The Napa Valley Transportation Authority board recently gave initial approval to a Vine Transit fare increase to help cover a rise in operational costs over the past decade.

Vine Transit bus fares haven't been increased since 2015. But since then, operating costs for the bus system have risen 43% — from $9.7 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, to $13.9 million in 2022-23, according to a staff report for the Feb. 21 board meeting.

The report notes that the agency had plans to adjust fares in 2020, but decided not to because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With final board approval — scheduled for a March 20 meeting — bus passes of most categories would see an increase in price ranging from up to 20%.

Rebecca Schenck, program manager at the transit agency, said at the meeting the increases generally fit with inflation since 2015.

The increases would include raising single-ride tickets:

—For adults, from $1.60 to $2 — a 25% increase.

—For youth, to $1.24 — a 14% increase.

—For seniors and disabled riders, to $ 1 — a 25% increase.

Rates for 31-day, 20-ride and day passes would similarly increase. The new adult 31-day pass, for example, would increase from $53 to $55.

VineGo paratransit services, which provides transportation beyond the fixed-route bus system, would also increase.

And fares for the express route to Solano County and the route to the Bay Area Rapid Transit line would see an increase.

Margie Mohler, a member of the authority's board, said at the meeting she was concerned the increase could decrease ridership.

Kate Miller, executive director of the agency, said there wasn't a way for the agency to cut costs without cutting services, which would result in a loss of more riders than a fare increase.

She also said the increase would put the agency on par with transit costs in nearby counties.

Liz Alessio, chair of the transportation authority's board and who is running for a seat on the Napa County Board of Supervisors, said the agency wants to see more ridership, but she thinks the greatest barrier to that is that the agency isn't in the financial place where it can offer "more rides, more consistently."

That, she said, would be the No. 1 way to drive more riders to the public transit system.

Board member Alfredo Pedroza, who also is a Napa County supervisor, added that with the fare increase, the board should have a conversation about opportunities to subsidize costs for those without the means to afford transit.

"There should be a program potentially to help offset that barrier," Pedroza said. "Whether you're a youth, student, someone with medical needs, there has to be a way in Napa Valley to address that."

You can reach Staff Writer Edward Booth at 707-521-5281 or [email protected].

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