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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cincinnati's regional transit authority proposes reduced service cuts, additional fare hikes

Earlier this month Metro officials looked for public input on how to balance their budget and deal with potentially massive service cuts and/or fare hikes. After weighing the public's input Metro officials have now come up with a proposal that will represent a 12 percent service reduction combined with fare increases to balance the budget that is facing a $16+ million shortfall.

“We listened to our customers, both at the public meeting on Oct. 2 and through surveys. Most were willing to accept a fare increase with a smaller service reduction, which is the option we are recommending,” said Marilyn Shazor, Metro’s CEO. “Our goal has been to preserve as much service as possible for our customers. But we're facing a $16 million shortfall next year and the money only stretches so far. We are required by law to have a balanced budget.”

The fare increases, proposed by Metro, are subject to Cincinnati City Council approval, but if passed, will prevent a larger 20 percent service reduction which will save 1 million rides annually and 55 full-time jobs. The new proposed fare increases would result in the following:

  • Zone 1, base fare: $0.25 increase (Zone 1, City of Cincinnati)
  • Zone 2 fare: $0.40 increase (Zone 2, Hamilton County)
  • Transfer charge: $0.25 increase
  • Monthly passes: Increase monthly pass and Fare Deal sticker prices to reflect fare increases
  • Zone 1 pass discount: Eliminate the $5 monthly pass discount

Paratransit service would also be affected under the new proposal. Metro officials have not yet come to a conclusion, but the following options are on the table whether the fare increases are proposed or not.

  • ADA service only: Provide service only at the level required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (Access currently provides limited service to some “grandfathered” customers that goes beyond what the ADA requires)
  • ADA maximum fare: Increase fares to the ADA-allowable fare (twice Metro’s fare for a comparable trip)

1 comment:

Mark Stegman said...

We need to shift our thinking about how we view bus transportation in Cincinnati; our current thinking has us in a downward spiral. A bus system is the cardiovascular system of a city, if we want a lively downtown, successful and diverse neighborhoods, and a green clean city, then we need to start thinking of the bus as the important circulatory system that it truly is in a prosperous city. For years we have been streamlining routes to increase riders on individual routes; this is a short term cost cutting solution that decreases the overall service of the bus system. If one route has a low number of riders then we nix that route or run less routes to that area. But this kind of management does not adequately adhere with the ebb and flow of neighborhoods, generational trends, and economic trends that happen on a longer time line than these short term adjustments. (i.e. If you do not cut the service to an area of town, then the new graduating class thinks that that part of town is good to live there because of its bus access) The continual reductions of routes in order to streamline cost effectively has diminished a quality of service leading us to the huge short fall that these drastic measures have seemingly become necessary.
I can not stress how vital a bus system is in a prosperous city. I have witnesses first hand having lived in Portland Oregon,(as well as Eugene, and Montreal CA.) a town that you can get to the various diverse neighborhoods and in and out of downtown all of the time on public transit, three quarters of the time you are on A BUS! Then lightrail, then streetcar. I am a supporter of the streetcar here but we can not overlook how buses bring the whole system together.
In order to stop the downward spiral between the quality of bus service and reduced ridership we could enact some relatively cheap fixes to a truly broken system (albeit not an easy system to run). First, consolidate the route maps into one book, it does not work having separate PDF's that fold out like maps for each route. Two, less stops! The routes take way to long, in some cases the bus stops every hundred yards. I beat the 43 (or 78?) to St. Bernard on a bike from downtown the other day and was not even trying. Less stops, but better stops that have shelters, a list of the busses that stop at that stop, and route maps of those busses where they go through the city posted at the stop. Cincinnati Metro has many stops that simply say "Metro Stop" or a red ban around a utility pole! Good Luck. If you have a cell phone you could call in to find out what bus you need to catch, what bus stops where you are, and where it goes, unless it is after five PM, then you are SOL!
Yes the aforementioned, along with longer call center hours and cross town routes in the north, have a price, but this cost could make the bus feasible to the entire public which could make the bus a self sustaning service. Reducing routes and raising cost will make for less riders and more of the same cuts in several months.
Thank you.

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