Public Meetings on Transit Fare Increases

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Valley Metro is seeking public comment on plans to raise fares for light rail and Express/RAPID bus services. Valley Metro spokesperson Susan Tierney explains the options that are being considered.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Starting today, valley metro is Hosam Hussein Smadiing a series of meetings to get put input on proposals to raise fares for bus and light rail service. Here with more is Susan Tierney, communications manager for valley metro. Thank you for joining us. So basically it's come tell us what you think, huh?

Susan Tierney: We would love to get impact from our passengers, the public, anyone who utilizes public transportation here in the valley. We'd love for them to step forward and join us and give us some input on a potential fare change or fare increase.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the potential changes here as far as the single ride fare, the express, talk about it.

Susan Tierney: We're looking at a 25-cent increase to one ride, that's the simplest calculation I can give you. That would be for local bus, our link service and light rail.

Ted Simons: What is link service?

Susan Tierney: Link is a bus service that connects you directly to light rail stations. It's currently in Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa. We also have a 50-cent increase to express and rapid. Both of those are commuter services. So that is of course the different options you have for each service are available to our passengers as far as fare payment goes. A fare media.

Ted Simons: Why 25% increase on one, 50 cents on the other?

Susan Tierney: Well, we did a fare equity analysis earlier this year. What we found out is that that local and link and light rail rider is actually paying more towards the cost of the operations of their trip. So to make it equitable we have a 50 cent increase on the rapid rider.

Ted Simons: To better share the operating costs.

Susan Tierney: Yes.

Ted Simons: When would the increases take effect?

Susan Tierney: It has to go through the public comment period, and that closes November 3rd. Then we collect all of that information, we take it to our valley metro board of directors and they make a decision in December. And then they will recommend an increase or a change, and then that would be -- take effect march 1st, 2013.

Ted Simons: So it's not going to sneak up on anybody. It's a long process.

Susan Tierney: It is a process. Of course we have to go in and change our fare boxes and change all the fare vending machines and update our collateral material. But now is the time for people to weigh in and give us their opinions.

Ted Simons: The idea of -- I know there's a three-day pass right now, and there's talk, or serious plans I guess might even be in effect, of a 15-day pass. Talk about those two ideas and where they would be with this.

Susan Tierney: The three-day pass isn't utilized as much as we thought it would be. So it really isn't practical for us to keep that available to our passengers. And we did think with this fare change it might be more practical for maybe the low income passengers, if they only had to purchase a pass that was 15 days at a time instead of the money to spend for a 31-day pass. It just makes it more affordable.

Ted Simons: The 15 miff day pass is still the same -- in other words, if I spent 25 cents or 50 cents more every day, regarding local or express, if I get the 15 do I get a break?

Susan Tierney: 15-day pass is more economical.

Ted Simons: It is, OK. So you want to hear input, you have all sorts of ways to hear that input. Talk to us about the options. You don't have to go to public hearings.

Susan Tierney: No, you don't, though we love to see people in person so they can talk to us and ask their question. We do have a webinar coming up, 10:00 in the morning. So you can register online at and you call in and then you utilize the website to look at the power point presentation. And then it does have an interactive session at the end so you can post questions online and we'll respond to those.

Ted Simons: WebiNAR, you get to sit at home and you get the presentation brought to you.

Susan Tierney: Yes. It makes it very convenient.

Ted Simons: Tuesday morning 10:00 a.m.?

Susan Tierney: Yes.

Ted Simons: OK. Social media conversation as well. What's that all about?

Susan Tierney: We decided to try tweet chats. So #VMfares will take you to the place where it gives you more information about our conversation. So we're just wanting people to utilize twitter to get more information about the increase and to ask questions, and we'll respond.

Ted Simons: That information is so your website for people --

Susan Tierney: It is. It's happening October 29th. So it is on our website, as well as all of the open houses.

Ted Simons: In person surveys, what's that -- how are those being run?

Susan Tierney: We did that earlier in October. We went to our busiest transit sites where there's a lot of passengers coming and going from light rail and bus, and we touch them by talking with them, working with them individually and asking them questions. Those questions are available online as well on an online survey. So we wanted to be able to work with them and get their feedback by actually going to the places where they are.

Ted Simons: Sure. We glossed over them, but there will be open houses and public hearings as well. Correct?

Susan Tierney: Right. So we have open houses coming up starting tonight through November 1st. And those are cities across the -- in cities across the valley. Such as Glendale, and Tempe, and Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, so once again, those are available scheduled on our website and available for you to get the exact address.

Ted Simons: More open houses than public hearings?

Susan Tierney: I think we'll have about nine or 10 open houses, and then we'll have one public hearing.

Ted Simons: All right. And again, the board -- talk about the board who makes the decision here. Because a lot of folks, they're going to be -- they're not too happy about this rate increase. But who really decides?

Susan Tierney: The valley metro board of directors represents the community. So the valley metro board is made up of our 16 members, which are 15 cities and towns, where valley metro provides service, plus the county. And so they are always looking out for their constituents. This is something that's very important to them. They're going to want that feedback from the public.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Great information. I guess go to the website and get all this repeated and maybe take your time looking at all this information. Thanks for joining us.

Susan Tierney: Thanks, Ted.

Susan Tierney:Spokesperson, Valley Metro;

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