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No comment from public on bus fare increases

POSTED March 29, 2011 9:43 p.m.

A proposed Stanislaus Regional Transit fare increase would raise the cost of most rides by $0.25, to $1.50 for a general fare bus ride. Senior or disabled fixed route bus riders would be exempted from the increase, with a ride remaining flat at $1.

A current, $0.25 transfer fee would be eliminated entirely. The move would see riders who transfer from StaRT to the Bus Line Service of Turlock continue to pay $1.50, an effective non-increase.

 “The fees have to go up,” said Brad Christian, Stanislaus County Transit Manager.  “Costs have gone up.”

The rate increase would be StaRT’s first in three years.

The fare increase is driven by a state-mandate that StaRT must collect in fares 10 percent of the system’s operating costs. While ridership has increased five percent over the past year – particularly on the busy Turlock to Modesto routes, which have added two runs – StaRT is just short of meeting farebox ratios due to increasing fuel, contract and labor costs.

Even with the the increase, riders would still be able to ride from Gustine to Oakdale for $1.50 – far less that the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

“We’re pretty reasonable,” Christian said.

Students would still be eligible for discounted 20-ride bus cards, but those too would increase a similar percentage, from $21.25 to $25.50. StaRT’s 31-day unlimited ride passes would not increase, remaining flat at $45.

Even with the proposed increase, StaRT’s fares would be comparable to those in neighboring cities. The $1.50 proposed general fare is equal to that of BLAST, $.25 more than Modesto’s bus system, and less than Ceres, San Joaquin Regional Transit and Merced County, which uses a zone system where fares can increase to $10.

“Our whole goal is to keep the fares as low as possible, and I’d like to think we’ve done that,” Christian said.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors will consider the proposed fare increase at a 9:10 a.m. public hearing on May 10 in the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers at 1010 10th St., Modesto. If approved, the new fares would go into effect in August.

StaRT held an open house at Turlock City Hall on Tuesday to discuss the proposed fare increase prior to the Board of Supervisors action, but no one attended the meeting. StaRT has held previous public forums on the fare hike in Riverbank and Patterson, where, similarly, no members of the public materialized to comment. A final open house is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 31 in Modesto’s City/County Building, 1010 10th St, Suite 4601.

Customers may also comment on the fare increase by calling (800) 688-1884, or visiting www.srt.org. Thus far, StaRT has received no comments on the increase through either avenue.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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