Budget Woes May Force Dial-a-Ride Fare Hikes : Peninsula: Palos Verdes Transit has already made cuts in transportation services because of a lack of funding. A public hearing is scheduled before the increases take effect.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hard times have hit Palos Verdes Transit, a $1-million-a-year dial-a-ride operation serving three Palos Verdes Peninsula cities, officials report.

A lack of funds forced service cutbacks, and the transit authority is now proposing substantial fare increases scheduled to take effect May 15. A public hearing on the fare increases will be held at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Rolling Hills Estates City Hall.

In addition to Rolling Hills Estates, the transit district covers Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, plus the unincorporated county areas on the peninsula. The transit system operates nine small buses and two station wagons to provide a dial-a-ride service that is used heavily by senior citizens.

The station-wagon fare will increase from $2 to $3 for service on the peninsula and will go up from $4 to $5 for locations outside the peninsula. This service, available only to those older than 60, will continue to be available from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Door-to-door transit bus service--also offered on a dial-a-ride basis--will increase to $3. The fare had been $1.50 a ride during peak hours and $1 a ride in the slack periods. The buses, available to all residents, will continue to run from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Palos Verdes Transit had 77,000 boardings last year. The operation is funded almost entirely by the three cities' combined share of the county's Proposition A half-cent transit sales tax and by fare-box revenues, officials reported.

As the recession hammers down sales tax revenues, the transit district's Proposition A income dropped by about 25% this fiscal year, from $780,000 to $582,000, according to transit manager Tamara Boswell. That will translate into service cuts and fare increases to balance the budget, she said.

The transit board--consisting of two council members from each of the three cities--ordered all weekend service halted in February. Last month the board cut back on the Monday through Friday operating hours for both the dial-a-ride station wagons and the Palos Verdes Transit buses, eliminating some early morning and late evening service.

In addition, the board said all service will be suspended June 18 through June 30 because the transit district doesn't have enough money to get through the fiscal year that ends June 30, officials said. Full service will resume July 1.

"We've got to stop the hemorrhage and get the budget back in balance," said Rancho Palos Verdes Councilman Steve Kuykendall, who serves on the transit board. He said more cuts are expected next year if sales tax revenues continue to decline as predicted.

The transit board will vote on the fare increases Wednesday, following the public hearing, Kuykendall said. If the rates are not increased, more services will have to be cut, he said.

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