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Rail News: Passenger Rail
Four transit agencies raise ticket prices to offset budget deficits, generate more revenue
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hike ticket prices to offset a projected $1.8 billion operating budget deficit during the next 10 years. The authority will increase day pass prices from $3 to $5 on July 1, 2007, and to $6 on July 1, 2009. Monthly pass prices will go up from $52 to $62 on July 1, 2007, and to $75 on July 1, 2009. Regular cash fares will remain at $1.25 during the next two years, then rise to $1.50 on July 1, 2009.
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) will implement a multi-year fare increase, as well. On July 1, UTA will raise the adult cash fare from $1.50 to $1.60. Ticket prices will rise to $1.75 on Jan. 1, 2008, and $2 on Jan. 1, 2009. The authority will hike monthly pass prices from $50 to $53.50 on July 1, $58.50 on Jan. 1, 2008, and $67 on Jan. 1, 2009.
In addition, UTA set a fare structure for FrontRunner commuter-rail service, which is scheduled to launch operations in spring 2008. Base fares will be $2.50 for travel between two stations; fares will increase 50 cents for each additional station traveled, with a maximum fare of $5.50 to travel the entire 44-mile corridor from Pleasant View to Salt Lake City.
In 2009, UTA will hike the base fare to $3. FrontRunner monthly passes initially will cost $145 to travel to all stations, then rise to $162 on Jan. 1, 2009.
New Jersey Transit already has approved and implemented a fare hike to help offset a projected $60 million FY2008 operating budget deficit. On June 1, the agency raised the Newark light rail and River LINE base fares from $1.25 to $1.35, and Hudson-Bergen light-rail base fares from $1.75 to $1.90. NJ Transit agency also increased monthly pass prices 9.9 percent and raised other rail fares an average of 9.9 percent.
Millions more in revenue
Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) fares also are going up in FY2008, which for DART begins Oct. 1. The agency will raise the base local fare — which includes all DART rail and bus, and Trinity Railway Express (TRE) service in Dallas and Irving — from $1.25 to $1.50. The base premium fare, which includes all TRE service, will increase from $2.25 to $2.50. DART also will hike local day pass prices from $2.50 to $3, and premium day passes, from $4.50 to $5. Monthly local passes will increase from $40 to $50 and premium passes, from $70 to $80. The fare hikes are expected to generate nearly $7 million annually, according to DART.
Heading to the polls in Seattle
Sound Transit’s expansion proposal set for November ballot
After more than two years of planning, Sound Transit is approaching voters with a proposal to add 50 new miles of light-rail lines, and improve commuter-rail facilities and express bus service. Last month, the agency’s board adopted the $10.8 billion Sound Transit 2 Plan, which will be placed on the November ballot as part of a $17.6 billion “Roads & Transit” measure.
If approved, the measure will be funded through a 0.5 percent sales tax increase. The plan calls for extending light-rail service north from the University of Washington to Northgate, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynwood; south through Des Moines, Federal Way and Fifte to the Tacoma Dome; and across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. The plan also includes funds to add parking and make other improvements to Sounder commuter-rail and ST Express bus facilities, add streetcar service in downtown Seattle to connect the International District, First Hill and Capitol Hill areas, extend Sounder commuter-rail service to Thurston County and study additional transit extensions.
Also last month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law legislation that streamlines the Roads & Transit ballot measure. Under the previous ballot framework, projects proposed by Sound Transit and the Regional Transit Investment District (RTID) — which developed the “roads” portion of the measure — would have been voted on separately, but both packages would have needed to pass for either to take effect.
A simplified process
The legislation simplifies the measure to present central Puget Sound voters a single question on whether or not they want to approve the roads and transit program.
Votes will be counted once within the Sound Transit district and once within the RTID, which extends further north into Snohomish County. The measure will take effect if it passes in both districts, though the area the falls outside the Sound Transit district will only pay for road projects.
Sound Transit officials are optimistic the ballot measure will be approved. Agency and RTID officials sought public feedback for the plan and obtained more than 8,000 comments.
“[The Sound Transit 2 Plan] is the cornerstone of what we need to respond to our population growth and keep our economy moving,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair Connie Marshall in a prepared statement.
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.