Metro Seeks Input on Three Options for 2012 Fare Increase

As we announced last week, Metro is anticipating a 4-5% fare increase this summer to keep up with operating costs that continually rise due to the price of fuel, parts and supplies, and benefits like healthcare. Metro’s last fare increase was January 1, 2009. We have postponed a fare increase for the last two years to allow time for service to be restored and ridership to stabilize.

The week of April 16 we will host a series of public information sessions reviewing need for the fare increase, and we will ask for public feedback on the proposed fare increase options. Any one of the three options would allow us to meet revenue goals required to sustain and continue to enhance the transit system. Our Board of Commissioners is expected to make a final decision on passenger fares in May after a review of public comments.

2012 Fare Increase Brochure

Two of the three fare increase options presented focus on passes including the 2-hour pass/transfer, weekly and monthly passes. The proposed fare increases would create a pricing structure that more accurately reflects the utilization of these fare types. A third option involves small increases across all fares.

Our long-range plan requires a fare increase of approximately 5% every other year. This incremental growth in passenger revenue is critical for the long-range financial health of the transit system, and will prevent sudden, very large fare increases in the future.

Please review the fare increase options presented, and give your feedback in the comments below, or email us at FareIncrease2012@metrostlouis.org

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26 Responses to “Metro Seeks Input on Three Options for 2012 Fare Increase”

  1. Robin Gray
    April 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Your link to the Fare Increase Brochure produces gibberish and won’t download…

  2. Robin Gray
    April 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I got it to work on my Ipad, won’t show on the work computer, probably the site you’re using is blocked. If fares are increased, you should return to half hour schedules during rush hour traffic times in the morning and the evening. I read an article over the weekend (sorry, I tried to find it but couldn’t) talking about someone going to New York for an event and they called transit for directions and were told apologetically that metro buses only run every fifteen minutes on Sundays. I realize you don’t have the ridership to warrant that type of schedule, but you won’t increase riders if the schedules are too inconvenient to the users. Most of the complaints I hear are about the long waits with the 40 minutes schedules not matching up with connections, and missing a bus by a minute or two means a 40 minute wait. To increase ridership, if the wait is as much as waiting in traffic, why wouldn’t one continue using a car, where you can play your own music, not put up with unruly teens, etc. There has to be an appeal to bring people in. An increase in use, means more money for Metro…

    • April 11, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      Thank you for the comments, Mike and Robin. Although I will try to reiterate, we do not have the resources, built environment or other factors to be a system like New York City or Chicago, due to our decentralized region. Both our population and employment centers are decentralized, thus our scheduling works on a hub and spoke model. Great thoughts on marketing, and it is true there is a balance to having less service and not being able to sustain ridership. Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. mike
    April 11, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Robin,

    Whenever you have a moment, read some of the comments that RTBones and I have posted in the past, and you’ll see that you are echoing our very same words.

    Metro does have funding issues, but I believe a major part of Metro’s problems are the result of the lack of cohesiveness, and the poor organizational structural planning with their buses and bus routes, in which RTBones and I have discussed in our previous posts. Metro tries to operate a bus system in a major metro region with the mentality suited for a small town. I am a former native New Yorker and one can only be spoiled by their efficient transit system in which getting around, whether it’s for business or for pleasure, is as easy as owning a car.

  4. April 13, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    You have to be kidding me. Voters passed a sales tax increase recently and now you want to raise fares? Amazing display of arrogance.

    • April 13, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      Scott, part of our long-range plan is creating sustainable funding for the system that keeps up with rising costs associated with health care, fuel and other changing costs. The plan calls for small (4-5%) increases in fare every several years. Our last scheduled fare increase was for 2010, and we postponed that after the passage of Prop A. There are several options on the table now, including one that reduces the discount for pass holders and a very small across the board increase. Your feedback on the various options is needed. I can also provide a more complete picture of our financial circumstances if that helps explain the need for a fare increase.

  5. RTBones
    April 13, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    So many places to go with this….

    Robin, what you are talking about are headways. Mike is right – he and I have beat this drum for a while. 40 minute headways do not work well, even in a decentralized region like St. Louis. Further, in an area where the general population is almost biased -against- buses (for many reasons beyond the scope of this post), Metro makes it difficult to even consider them as an alternative. They cater to folks that -must- use transit, and rarely consider those who can choose. I realize that scheduling buses accurately is a huge and very complicated task, but let me put it another way: 40 minute headways are 40 minute headways to someone who has to ride the bus. On the other hand, a 40 minute headway to someone who has options for other modes of transit means they don’t ride the bus. Its that simple. In this day and age, time is money.

    Along the same line, one of the lesser known facts about Metro is that its prime directive is NOT to run a transit system – it is economic development. Transit is part of that, but not Metro’s sole focus. It is also a non-profit organization. What that means is that they make decisions on spending that a for-profit company wouldn’t make. Metro tolerates behavior that a for-profit company wouldn’t (read: regular 4-12 minute late buses, buses not showing up, broken fare boxes, occasional drivers not knowing their routes, changing schedules quarterly, next to no marketing, poor signage and schedules, etc.) Their spending priorities are different. Metro simply doesn’t think like a transit agency, because at its heart, it really isn’t one. Metro will jump to implement a service someone else pays for – like wrapping two buses and calling them ‘trolleys’ – because it gives them branded services. The problem with it is that they do so without recognizing the fact that it makes Metro look like a joke to anyone not from the region (particularly if they are from somewhere that has decent transit), and does more to chase away riders with choice than not. Its one thing to paint a bus (like having the Girls Scouts paint a bus), but what they do with the ‘trolley’ services is actually advertise that they are ‘trolleys’. In a town with the rich streetcar history that St. Louis has, this is particularly odious.

    Along the lines of the headway issue – our system is hugely difficult to use. If you don’t have a smart phone or an internet connection, forget trying to decipher bus schedules, because Metro doesn’t post them anywhere. If you do manage to find a bus going your direction, chances are they either do not have paper schedules on board, or the ones they do have are for other routes. Besides that, right now, the schedules change so often that printing a schedule is almost useless. Anyone who doesn’t use the system regularly will have an ENORMOUS task trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Further, the online tools like Google Transit that we have regularly do not display connections I know I can make, especially if you have to make more than one.

    I understand that this fare increase is necessary – as Mike has said, Metro is cash-strapped, and funding resources are limited. There are a few facts, however, that Metro never seems to understand. First, communication is key. This blog, and town hall meetings are nice. Courtney, Jennifer, and the rest of the online media team do a bang-up job for us with the info they are given – in fact, I would have given up on Metro a long time ago if not for the work they do in both trying to get information to us and accepting our complaints. But if you are ever going to convince non-riders to give your system a shot, you need to add TV and radio spots that discuss your fare increase and market your system – and more than just your wrapped buses. Second, people have long memories, especially when it comes to money these days. They remember we recently passed a tax for Metro. They remember the lawsuit. They see Metro raising fares. What they DON’T see is any return for their dollar. Bottom line? You want people to invest (taxes) and accept fare increases, they are going to want something for their money. Right now, its just not there, and simply saying the money is needed as part of the long range plan really doesn’t do the trick.

  6. Marjorie Soffer Wood
    April 16, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    My husband and I are low income and can’t afford a car or bus . I hope they just have another tax increase of sorts. There is too much month at the end of the money!

  7. Robin Gray
    April 16, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    As for my choice for the increase, I choose options two or three, I don’t think option one is fair. You are penalizing those of us who invest in your service for a month at a time and letting off the people who pay for individual passes. Those that use metro link to get to the game, etc. I’m sorry that there are people who can’t afford buy passes, but they are the ones who can never find them wen the bus is ready to leave even though they’ve been sitting around waiting for the bus. Dont put the burden on only the pass holders. That’s not fair!!!!! Posting this on your Facebook page as well…

  8. Robin Gray
    April 16, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    @RT Bones, I am a must use transit person, but I do recognise that catering to the users that have options is a must to increase ridership.

  9. Nathan
    April 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    I am low-income and been riding the Metro off and on for about 19 years and I am for Option 2 or 3 but I will tell you this the way it is right now I can afford it and option 2 I can afford cause I am reduced fair but I also heard that Metro is wanting to do away with the fare boxes all together and I am not going to say who my source is but is that true? Instead of people wasting money let’s say fare is $1.50 and someone puts in $2.00 who is reduced fair then I think fare should be $2.00 cause not everyone carries change on them if you do a survery and aks people will tell you they carry cash and not change so Metro needs to do their job and even if we say what Plan we like better Metro will make the decision in the end and I feel sorry for people who have to fork out almost a $100 month for a monthly pass they say on the bus everytime the fares are to high and even the bus drivers hear it also and even bus drivers say fares are to high!

  10. RTBones
    April 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Robin,

    I understand completely. As Courtney can tell you, this is part of an ongoing discussion that Metro, myself, and Mike have had for a while now. As someone who has been blessed with the ability to be able to choose my mode of transport, my biggest beef with the system is that it is horribly difficult to get around and SOOOOO time-consuming! You cant find information anywhere but the web, there are no maps anywhere but the web, and the info that is there changes constantly (quarterly updates). This comes from someone (like Mike) who has lived and worked in places where efficient transit exists. The system here is anything but efficient. Our headways are huge. Its uncommon, but not a surprise when a bus doesn’t show up at all. Our buses (particularly outside of commute times and not at the start of a run) are routinely 4-12 minutes late. For people like me, time means a lot. If I have to be somewhere by a certain time, I’ll generally drive because I can’t afford to rely on the buses.

    Further, Metro will often extend Metrolink running times to support an event (baseball, concert, hockey, etc). This is a good thing. Yet at the same time, I have yet to see Metro extend the running time of even a select few buses. The response you’ll get when you ask the question why is that extending the buses is labor intensive, expensive, and just not an option. (I do understand its a money thing.) But by NOT running buses late – even a few select routes – you are training people who dont normally ride to ONLY RIDE THE TRAIN – in an area where they are already biased against buses. People see transit here as Metrolink, and rarely consider the bus – not a complete system.

  11. Robin Gray
    April 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    @Rt Bones, I do understand your issues as I have the same. It used to take me about an hour to get home. The current route that’s available, I have to sit at my desk and wait for twenty minutes after I clock out, then go catch the Metrolink (I could leave at 5, but I’d end up standing outside at the Central West End bus terminal for 35 minutes). I then wait about 5 – 10 minutes for the bus at 5:58 pm (the driver usually shows up about six or a few minutes after)(also a big confusion as there are TWO #80 buses with completely different routes that leave about 10 minutes apart at that time). I get home about 6:20, 6:25. If I could leave my job early (not likely to happen and I want to keep this job) I could catch the 4:57pm Metrolink and get the 5:18 pm bus. I took that one day when I was at the office on a day off and I walked in my home at 5:36. It’s the only time the schedule works that well….

  12. mike
    April 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    I continue to read comments about buses still not running on time. I thought the stop elimination program was suppose to improve the run time of the buses. With the exception of the stops that were removed for safety issues, removing many of the effected stops made riding the buses even more inconvenient, since many riders now have to walk further to access their bus stops, which, in addition to the horrendous headways of the buses, only added on to the total travel commute time.

    As I mentioned in my previous posts, eliminating stops, in theory, could improve the runtime of buses, if buses didn’t have to deal with other elements such as traffic congestion, inclement weather, unruly passengers, and etc. which would affect their runtime. But again, by providing easy access to public transit (not making it more inconvenient by making people walk further), that is almost as convenient as getting to and into your car, is another step towards making the use of public transit more appealing, especially for those who do not have to use it.

    It is difficult to affectively run an efficient public transit system in a major metro region, with a small town state of mind.

  13. LongtimeRider
    April 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Ditto Ditto Ditto, especially for RT Bones’ comments about the 40-min headway. A 40-min wait is absolutely unacceptable for anyone. This is suppose to be a “mass” transit system. Time is precious. But even more than that is Metro’s biggest problem: EXCELLENCE, the lack thereof! Where is the service excellence? It does not seem to be promoted, encouraged, monitored, or rewarded at METRO. The reason you have low ridership is for a number of reasons but chew on this….no cohesive coordinated effort. The ingredients as they exist will yield exactly what you have now, LOW Ridership:
    1/2 cup Drivers don’t know routes (happens every 3mo)
    1/2 cup Drivers unfamiliar with the area (no help to new riders)
    3 1/2 cups Unsychronized schedules
    3 cups Drivers consistently running late/behind schedules without cause, (resulting in missed connections and often 40min to 1hr waits)
    2 cups Some drivers just don’t care & lackadaisy attitude
    1/2 cup Increased fares (without improved service)
    1 1/2 cups of mismanagement of tax funding
    2 cups of poor public communication
    Throw in a heaping dash of a disrespectful environment, escalators that haven’t worked for 2 years (Clayton Station), and ignored customer complaints and there you have it. STL Metro. And you wonder why more folks aren’t running to ride the bus even with gas at $4 a gallon. Hmmm?

    STL is not NY or Chicago, and it goes without saying that the grid is the overall are way too lax, schedules are inconvenient, and If the service was reliable, consistent, and accessible, ridership would increase. If one has to make a bus to bus connection, forget.

  14. RTBones
    April 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    OK, a few questions:

    1) Why is there a difference (still) between a bus fare and a train fare. Are we paying the extra quarter or 35 cents because the train is more reliable?

    2) Why are you keeping transfers?

    3) Why wouldnt you simplify your fare structure so that when you buy a ticket, regardless of mode of transport, you get what is now a 2hr pass/transfer good on either bus or train?

  15. RTBones
    April 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    The biggest problem I see with any of the options so far is that you are requiring folks to carry a lot more change (nickles/dimes instead of bills and quarters). Why is this a problem? Your fare boxes. Right now, they regularly cause havoc for the drivers. I know you are trying to replace them with boxes that will accept a Smartcard, but this fare increase will go into effect long before those boxes are deployed.

  16. mike
    April 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I would like to throw in another ingredient to LongTimeRider’s comments and I’m beating a dead horse with this one.

    The lack of local bus service in the downtown core area east of Tucker Blvd., which became effective during the 2009 service cuts, and was never restored even after passing the sales tax increase. In order for local bus passengers to be able to continue their trips from their outlying destinations into the downtown core area, Metro implemented service on the #99 Downtown trolley, which shuttles passengers between the Civic Center MetroLink Station, where the affected bus routes that previously served the downtown core currently terminte, and the downtown core. I patronize the downtown core often enough to observe that the #99 trolleys run empty or nearly empty most of the time. I have never seen a full bus, err trolley, on the #99 route.

    What does it cost Metro to operate the #99 shuttle compared to using that money towards restoring full service to at least some of the local bus routes that formerly traveled into the downtown core area. Has Metro ever looked into discontinuing the #99, and diverting the cost of operating that service towards restoring some of the local bus service, which was cut in 2000, back into the downtown core area?

    I believe many passengers would welcome the return of local bus service to th,e downtown core area. They would not have to deal with the inconvenience of breaking continuity when traveling by bus from their outlying destinations into the downtown core, and it would also be a timesaver since these riders would be able to travel directly back and forth to their destinations, instead of being forced to transfer to the #99 trolley in order to complete their trip into the downtown core, that is both time consuming and inconvenient.

    Also, over the past several years, Metro has made major realignments to their bus routes that make absolutely no sense. As I stated in my previous post, part of Metro’s problem besides their budgetary woes, is that their planning lacks cohesiveness, with poor organizational and structural planning of their bus system.

    • April 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Mike, I will extend the invitation to you as I did to Susie, if you would like to talk to the planning department about downtown service (specifically where you would like to ride to and how local service would be helpful), I can arrange that for you.

  17. Susie
    April 18, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    I want to start off by saying that I’ve been riding Metro for 10 years, and up until 3 years ago it was the ONLY way I got around town. That being said, the only reason I drastically reduced my use of the service is because I no longer agree with the way Metro continues to function, i.e. constant fare increases, fewer and fewer routes, longer wait times, and less bus stops.

    I live exactly 3.1 miles away from work, and can drive to work in less than ten minutes (even if I catch every red light.) Because my fiance and I share one car but we both work, I take the bus about 3 times a week, either going to or coming home from work. Yet, even when the bus is running at peak time, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get home. One hour to go 3 miles? I find that completely unacceptable. I have to walk a significant portion of that time as well, because the bus that actually drops off near my home only runs at select times of day, and it doesn’t continue the entire length of my commute. I have to transfer due to that horrid idea to make the 11 and the 21 two different routes. I either walk .7 miles to catch the 21 from work or transfer from the 11 or 30 at the Shrewsbury station and then wait 10-40 minutes for the 21 to leave.

    I understand the money issue – I can only imagine the costs associated with running a mass transit system! But how can you possibly expect somebody in my situation (I’m paying $2.75 to go 3.1 miles in 45 minutes to an hour and still having to walk about 1 mile of that) to continue to support your service, especially if there is a rate increase?

    Some days I have no choice, but often I opt to just wait around at work for a ride from my fiance then even attempt the bus. I think that really goes to prove what most people are telling you – even though there are people out there WILLING to pay for your product, you are ignoring their needs and hoping to stay afloat by relying on the funds of those that have NO CHOICE. The business model seems to be to just continuously increase fares on those who HAVE to use your services, because you know that there is just a portion of the population that will always need it no matter what. Instead of growing your ridership, you are putting more burden and stress on those that have no choice.

    As it is now, I’m exploring other options so I don’t need to use Metro at all, whether that be saving for an inexpensive car, attempting biking/walking to work, or carpooling, because I just find Metro’s problems to be far too ongoing and extensive to fix. That’s the real shame of this situation: if you have people willing to pay for and stand up for your service, but you’re pushing them away with one bad decision after another.

    • April 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Susie, if you want, we can work together to see if there is a better option for you to take from your home to your work. There might be a different option to explore. Regarding fare increases, this is the first increase since 2008. We had one scheduled in 2010, but postponed it after the passage of Proposition A. We have decided, with the help of public input, that it’s better to have more frequent, but less drastic, fare increases to keep up with the rising rate of costs. This model is similar to the price of milk or bread, rather than jump up drastically, prices have smaller fluctuations so it’s not as traumatic on people’s pocketbooks.

      We do want to make the service better, and make changes often to design better routes, but public input is very important for that. If’ you’d like to talk to one of our planners on how these routes do or don’t work for you, I can arrange that. We might be able to work together to find a solution. If you would like to speak with us, please email your contact info to clsloger AT metrostlouis.org.

  18. mike
    April 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Courtney,

    Thank you very much for extending your invitation to have the opportunity to talk to your Planning Department. I’ll email my contact info to you, and I’ll be looking forward to speaking with one of the your planners. Thanks again and have a great weekend.

  19. RTBones
    April 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    @Mike,

    I’m glad its not just me that observes the #99 being empty. I’m on record here as not caring for the service, but I rarely see more than one or two riders on it – at a lot of different times as well. (Like Mike, I also patronize downtown regularly.) Regardless of my own personal feelings about the implementation, the route doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – unless you consider the possibility of some entity giving Metro money to run it (or maybe it was just the wrapping and the signage that were paid for – I dont recall the exact details) – which is no way to run a transit system.

    Glad to hear you’ll be talking to planning, Mike. I look forward to hearing how that goes.

    @Susie – the description of your struggles to go 3.1 miles is the reason I don’t use Metro every day as well. My issues are connecting Metrolink with the 44. When I can hit it ‘at just the right time’, its fine. Unfortunately, that’s rare for me. My hangup is usually with the connection at North Hanley. As I’ve stated earlier, if I have to be somewhere by a certain time, I drive.

    One thing regarding the core – you need to fix the ‘transit center’ at Civic Center. Running more buses into there is NOT the answer.

  20. April 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Nathan, thank you for your feedback. No, we are not doing away with the fareboxes, though buses will be getting new fareboxes soon as part of a capital project (mean, we don’t pay for it with operating money) to update fareboxes to use smartcard technology. Thanks for your response!

  21. April 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks for your comments Robin!

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