Bus fare may increase by 25 cents

By Charles Ratliff

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA students and employees who ride express buses to campus may have to contend with a 25-cent fare increase.

The proposal by the Pima County Board of Supervisors represents a $1 million cut in subsidies to Sun Tran and will affect those who ride the No. 102 Ina Road and the No. 103 Oldfather Road express routes.

"What they have proposed for routes 102 and 103 is a 25-cent increase, which would amount to a $1.25 overall fare," said Yika Riley-Smith, director of marketing for Sun Tran.

Felipe Sanchez, public transportation administrator for Pima County, said the county pays for Sun Tran service extensions into unincorporated areas of the county.

For those who have purchased annual passes and express stickers, the fare increase actually doubles, said Larry Barton, associate director of UA's parking and transportation services.

He said students could purchase bus passes from the university for $105, a little less than half as much as the school pays Sun Tran. Barton said parking and transportation eats the difference of $120 to help promote public transit as an alternative form of transportation. The express stickers, he said, are $80, over and above the cost of the bus pass. If the county approves the cut and Sun Tran is forced to hike the fare, an express sticker could cost as much as $160.

Barton said that the No. 103 express route recorded over 25,000 boardings last year and about 98 percent of them were related to the university. On the No. 102 express route there were 45,000 boardings with 5 percent related to the university.

He said, overall, close to 30,000 boardings combined on those two express routes per year relate in some way to the university.

"Most of the students who ride the bus pay by cash fare," Barton said. "When you figure in the increase, that comes up to quite a bit of money."

It figures up to the equivalent of paying for a gated parking permit for one year, he said.

Riley-Smith said UA students and employees who use those express buses would have to make up for the increase either through purchasing another sticker up front or by paying the extra surcharge at each boarding.

Barton said he is concerned that existing bus riders will not pay the increase and go back to driving to campus, thus furthering the current parking problems.

"It's a concern for the consumer because of the extra money and it's a concern for the university because it derails our attempts to promote alternative modes of transportation," Barton said.

Sanchez said he wasn't sure how the proposed fare hike could affect the express routes under consideration. In the past, he said, the number of riders on regular transit routes have decreased slightly when a fare increase was incorporated.

"There's a rule of thumb in the industry fare elasticity that for every 10 percent increase in the rate of the fare there is a corresponding 3 percent loss in riders," Sanchez said.

However, the 102 and 103 are express service routes not typical transit routes so Sanchez said he wasn't sure if that formula applied.

Barton said students need to contact the board of supervisors if they are using one of those routes to express their opinions of the proposed increase.

A meeting to discuss the proposal is scheduled to take place at 130 W. Congress on Oct. 3 at 9 a.m.

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