Council votes to raise Sun Tran fares

Council votes to raise Sun Tran fares

CREATED Apr 13, 2011

Reporter: Ileana Diaz
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson City Council has voted to raise Sun Tran bus fares, but the hike is not as much as some expected.

After weeks of collecting feedback from Sun Tran riders, the council voted to increase bus fares from $1.25 a ride to $1.50.  Fares for low-income riders will increase from $0.40 to $0.50 per ride, rather than the $0.60 fare that had been originally proposed.  The changes will take place July 1.

The rate hikes were necessary to close a $1.6 million deficit, but since some of the approved fares were lower than originally proposed, there's still a $260,000 hole in the budget.

While some riders agree that paying more is better than losing bus routes, Helen Brewer said the Sun Tran rate increases bump her over her budget, and will force her to cut necessary trips out of her life.

"You need to go to the chiropractor, you need to go to the doctor.  How can you not go?  And so then my only choice is not going to the store, or not doing my 'senior citizen thing,' which is my fun activity of the week.  Or not going to church.  I don't want to have to make that decision," Brewer said as she addressed the city council Tuesday night.

Robert Blizzard, a handicapped Sun Tran rider, said he believes the rate increases are necessary, and not at all unreasonable.

"They [riders] got so used to getting handouts, that a ten-cent increase is like treason.  For heaven's sake, you know, prioritize what you're going out there to ride the bus to do," he told KGUN9 reporter Ileana Diaz.

Since the council decided to raise the economy rate to $0.50 instead of the proposed $0.60, there's still a gap in the budget of $260,000.  Council members said Tuesday that they would find a way to patch it up.

"Realistically, will the city be able to bridge that new deficit of $260,000?"  Diaz asked Tucson Dept. Of Transportation director, Jim Glock.

"I am cautiously optimistic, but my manager may be putting me to task tomorrow morning as we look at the outcome of this decision and how we close that gap," Glock responded.

So far, there are no concrete ideas on how to make up the deficit.  But a part of the amendment put to a vote Tuesday was making sure city council members consider allowing advertisements on Sun Tran buses, something that has not been allowed for the last few years.