Should the Albany Transit System raise its fares? The city council on Wednesday put off a decision. And common sense argues against it.
On the council’s agenda was a resolution to raise bus fares from $1 to $1.50 for adults and from 50 cents to 75 cents for youth and for folks who are disabled or old. The council held a public hearing, and no one rose to say a word.
I was there to listen and report, but if someone had asked me, I would have said:
“Please consider the reasons people in Albany ride the bus. I think it’s mostly because they can’t afford a car or are too old or disabled to ride a bike, let alone drive. Fifty cents more to ride the bus likely means that if they can, they’ll walk instead. Or not make the trip at all. Or in some cases, heaving to earn the money first, by finding and then walking to redeem five more discarded cans.
“In short, even a lousy four bits more means a hardship for some. And what would be the point of causing that hardship? The city staff reports that fares generate about $28,000 a year, which is only 6 percent of the revenue it takes to run the buses. And as the staff also has told you, a fare hike always results in a drop in ridership, a drop that lasts for several months. So even a 50 percent fare hike doesn’t generate much for quite a while.”
By now I would have run out of breath, probably.
The city staff also pointed out that a new state program makes money available for local bus systems that take pains to assure that the poor have easy access. In view of which, the staff memo to the council said, it would make sense to forgo any increase at all.
The council put off a decision because apparently efforts are being made at the county level to coordinate various local transportation services. When a decision is eventually made, I hope the council considers how much more hardship a fare hike might cause in relation to the small amount, if any, the city would gain. (hh)