Thursday, November 12, 2009

transit votes

[suburban votes guarantee fare increase...]

City to hike bus fares, starting Jan. 1
Basic fare jumps 15 cents to $2.55, but yearly seniors' passes won't take a hit

, The Hamilton Spectator, (Nov 12, 2009)

Hamiltonians will pay 15 cents more for bus fares beginning Jan. 1.

An increase that will see fares climb from $2.40 to $2.55 passed with a narrow 9-7 vote at last night's city council meeting. Tickets will also go up 15 cents to $2 and monthly passes will climb to $86 from $79.

Yearly seniors' passes will remain the same price.

The hike is expected to bump revenue by $1.5 million, an amount that will offset the HSR's estimated $1.6-million loss this year and a predicted $3.4-million shortfall next year.

Council initially rejected both a 10-cent fare increase and a 20-cent increase at a special budget transit meeting in late October. Though most councillors supported a hike, their votes were split between a 10-cent or 20-cent increase.

The 15-cent hike was a "compromise," said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

"In a perfect world, I would have liked to see 20 cents," he said. "Twenty cents is what's necessary, and 15 cents is a reasonable compromise."

The vote re-opened a long-running debate that "breeds an environment that's really conducive to hostility," said Councillor Sam Merulla. Councillor Brian McHattie, who voted against the increase, called it "an extremely unfortunate and wrongheaded move" and warned it will decrease ridership.

Councillors Terry Whitehead and Chad Collins both said they supported a 10-cent increase, but voted against the 15-cent hike.

"I can't support the 15 cents. I think it does go too far," Collins said.

"From my perspective, I think it's reasonable to expect an increase, and 10 cents for me works."

Still, the goal of keeping next year's property tax hike to two per cent or less ultimately convinced most council members to vote in favour of the increase.

"If we don't get it from the fare box, we certainly have to dip into the tax base," Eisenberger said. "The two per cent target is going to be a difficult one to achieve, and it will be even more difficult without this increase."

The hike comes into effect exactly two years after the last increase from $2.25 to $2.40.

Council also requested a report on automatically calculating future fare increases in time for next year's budget.

That formula could prevent the transit debate from resurfacing each year, Eisenberger said.


Yes: Brad Clark, Fred Eisenberger, Lloyd Ferguson, Tom Jackson, Margaret McCarthy, Dave Mitchell, Robert Pasuta, Maria Pearson, Russ Powers

No: Bob Bratina, Chad Collins, Scott Duvall, Brian McHattie, Sam Merulla, Bernie Morelli, Terry Whitehead

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