Transportation

Sacramento Regional Transit holds fare hike community forums

The financially troubled Sacramento Regional Transit District has launched a series of community open houses over the next two weeks, asking public opinion on fare increase proposals.

The agency staff last month proposed 20 percent increases to go into effect in July. A majority of RT board members, however, said they do not support that level of increase, and asked staff to explore alternatives. “To hammer a catch-up fare increase all at one time is fairly unconscionable,” board member Patrick Hume said. “I can’t support doing that.”

The agency staff has kept the initial 20 percent increase proposal on the table for discussion, but has added two other options for discussion. One suggestion is to increase fares 10 percent this July, then increase fares another 10 percent in July 2017. A single-ride fare would go from $2.50 currently to $2.75 this summer, then $3 in 2017. RT officials say this option would allow them to balance their budget.

A third option involves several 5 percent increases over a longer period, bringing the single ride fare to $3 in January 2018. RT officials indicated they do not believe that approach allows them to pay operating expenses, build up an adequate reserve account, and meet state standards for fare box revenue.

“We want feedback,” General Manager Mike Wiley said. “Then we need to balance that against what our financial situation is looking like.”

If the public and the board want lower fare increases, the agency will have to dig deeper to cut costs and find other revenue, Wiley said. One possibility is a potential countywide sales tax ballot measure in November to provide revenue for a variety of transportation projects, including a share for RT. The Sacramento Transportation Authority is expected to decide this summer whether to sponsor that measure.

Any fare increase will be the first the agency has instituted since 2009. The agency has had to dip into reserves to balance its budget the last two years, and is facing projected deficits in each of the next five years.

An increase to $3 would likely make RT’s single-ride fare the highest or among the highest among transit agencies nationally. RT officials say some other agencies get more government financial support than RT.

The RT board is expected to revisit the fare increase question at its March 14 meeting. The initial open house was held Wednesday at the Mather Field/Mills Station.

Public forums

Here is the schedule for the forums to discuss possible fare increases:

Tuesday: Noon to 7 p.m., RT Auditorium, 1400 29th St., Sacramento;

Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Arcade Library, 2443 Marconi Ave., Sacramento;

Feb. 23: Noon to 7 p.m., Citrus Heights Community Center, 6300 Fountain Square Drive, Citrus Heights;

Feb. 25: Noon to 7 p.m., Cosumnes River College – Winn Center, 8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento.

Riders can take an online survey at sacrt.com

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