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Transit Board Votes to Raise Trolley, Bus Fares by 15%

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bus and trolley fares will rise an average of 15% July 1 under a plan approved Thursday by the Metropolitan Transit Development Board. The increases are the first for the region’s transit system in more than four years.

Bus increases will range from 25 cents to 50 cents and trolley fares will rise by as much as 25 cents under the program, which the MTDB board of directors approved to avert a $5.7-million budget deficit for fiscal 1992.

Monthly passes will also increase by as much as $10, with most price increases in the $2 to $5 range.

In other action, the MTDB approved a controversial alignment of a 3.6-mile extension of the trolley’s East Line from the El Cajon Transit Center to the Santee Town Center. Service on the line could begin in 1993, said MTDB spokeswoman Judy Leitner.

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The price increases will cover escalating operating costs for the bus and trolley systems brought on mainly by a wage settlement and the increased cost of diesel fuel, said Elliot Hurwitz, a senior transportation planner for the MTDB. Officials faced a choice of raising fares or cutting service, he said.

“The fare increase is necessary to balance the budget and to be able to . . . provide service to the public that the public is demanding,” Hurwitz said.

But San Diego City Councilman Bruce Henderson, one of three dissenters in the 11-3 vote to approve the fare increases, said that the fare increases will hurt ridership. MTDB planners predict that ridership will increase by 4% with a fare increase, but would have risen 6.5% without one.

“We’re going in exactly the wrong direction,” Henderson said. “We should be doing every single thing to increase ridership that we can think of.” Increased use of mass transit will improve air quality and lessen traffic congestion, Henderson said.

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Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt, another MTDB director, concurred, saying that the board should “trim the fat” out of the system before considering price rises.

Under the fare schedule approved Thursday, bus prices, now pegged at 75 cents to $2.25, will range from $1 to $2.75. Those prices include fares for North County express buses, which will increase 50 cents from their current prices of $1.75, $2 and $2.25.

A typical monthly bus pass, which costs $55 to $65, will increase $2 or $5 under the plan.

Trolley fares, which start at 50 cents and go as high as $2, will increase by 25 cents for all rides of more than four stops. Senior, disabled and youth fares will increase by 10 cents.

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The MTDB directors ordered staff members to seek subsidies that would allow them to scale back the fare increases, but Hurwitz held out little hope that would happen.


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