Fresno considers FAX bus fare increase proposal

FRESNO, California

Committee Chairperson Susan Good thinks it will pay off. "What we're hoping for and what happens in other communities is the increased fares provide a stable service, a better service and more people use it."

The committee is recommending the city raise bus rates by 75 cents, over five years. With a 25 cent increase every other year. So the present $1.25 fare would rise to $2.00 by 2017.

City Council member Lee Brand believes it will be a tough sell. "In my four years here we've done one rate increase in 2011 and we had this place packed, we raised in 25 cents and I thought they were going to hang us outside, there were a lot of upset people."

The man in charge of Fresno's bus system, Ken Hamm, is also skeptical of the proposed rate of increase. "The 25 cent increase we had in 2011 hit a lot of passengers pretty hard and so I think that's going to be a difficult one."

Hamm notes raising fares just 25 cents caused a lot of folks to quit riding the bus. "There was about a 12 per cent reduction in ridership we saw almost immediately and it took about a year and a quarter for that to tick back up."

The Fresno Area Express currently operates on a roughly $50 million a year budget. Only about $10 million of that comes from riders. The rest from federal and state grants and Fresno County's Measure C tax.

Good feels raising fares will pay off with better service and new riders, but what about those who depend on the bus now, like Maishisia Johnson?

"It could hurt a lot of people I don't have an extra quarter," Johnson said. "I'm up here every day getting to school, trying to make it fixed income. So if they raise it an extra quarter, that's a quarter, I don't have."

The council is considering the committee's recommendations but no immediate action on bus fares is planned.

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