Photo Credit: Minnesota Public Radio)
Twin Cities bus and rail prices went up 25 cents on October 1st. Another 50 cent increase is possible for next year. With high gas prices here to stay, many in the Twin Cities are turning to mass transit to get around. Columnist Nick Coleman is right on when he says "Bus-fare hike couldn't come at a worse time.â€? In his column, Coleman lays out some arguably controversial alternatives to raising the fares, but in my opinion the punch line of the column is hard to argue with - we want to capitalize on the increased ridership in the Twin Cities and continue to encourage use of public transportation, not decrease the economic incentives for people to switch from cars to the bus.
Beyond the transit policy and environmental policy implications, I think itâ€™s important to also look at this issue from an equity perspective. An across the board fare increase is by definition regressive â€“ the lower a riderâ€™s current income, the larger the percentage of that limited income theyâ€™ll now be spending on transit. This means that the estimated yearly increase of $120 for a typical commuter hits low income individuals and families hardest. It also means that transit costs will become even more difficult for all kinds of nonprofits - from those focused on job creation to poverty alleviation to increased educational opportunities - and their clients to contend with.
Is there a fair, practical way to address the regressivity of transit fare increases to minimize the effects on certain populations through policy changes? Or is this something that nonprofits will have to mitigate themselves for their clients affected by rising bus and rail fares?
For more information on Twin Cities transportation visit The Met Councilâ€™s Transit and Transportation Website. For even more information on current transit issues in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, visit Transit for Livable Communities, a Twin Cities non-profit focused on transit, walking, biking, and transit-oriented development.