BY WINSTON HECKT, STAFF WRITER
Last Sunday, the inevitable occurred: Metro Transit increased the cost of bus, light rail and Northstar fares for the first time in nearly a decade. An official statement from Metro Transit credits “inflation and other factors that have lead operating costs to rise” as an explanation for the 25-cent increase in fare costs as well as a 50-cent increase for Metro Mobility, a transportation service for people with disabilities.
In addition to the fare increase, October brings an end to the stored value bonus that offered $1 for every $10 a customer put on a GoCard. This promotion was introduced a decade ago as incentive for customers to use fare cards, which were new at the time. Now, about two-thirds of customers use Go-Cards, ending the need for the stored value bonus as incentive. The fare increase has been met with negative reactions.
Asked how the fare increase will affect his use of Metro Transit, Augsburg University student Kristian Evans says, “25 cents doesn’t seem like much, though for more frequent riders, it hurts much more quickly. What is nice from a student perspective is that Metro Transit provides a way for people to get around at an affordable price. Students or low-income individuals are not hampered by a lack of a car. A fare increase seems to go against this idea as it means money doesn’t go as far.”
Although the increase may seem like a burden for commuters, the increase actually puts Metro Transit’s fare cost at an equal level to that of other cities of comparable and greater size. The new $2 fare cost is the same as the fares in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago, and it is still cheaper than the fares in Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia.
Amid concerns for how the increase will negatively impact the low-income customers who need Metro Transit’s services the most, Metro Transit has introduced the Transit Assistance Program (TAP). The TAP provides qualified, low-income residents with a discounted $1 fare. Customers who think they might qualify can learn more and enroll at either of the Metro Transit Service Centers located in downtowns Minneapolis and St. Paul. In addition to the Transit Assistance Program, Metro Transit continues to offer discounted fare for seniors, youth and individuals with disabilities.
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 6, 2017, Edition of The Echo.