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Transportation board raises bus fares in 2009, ’10

Starting in January, $1.25 won’t get you as far as it used to with Citizens Area Transit.

It won’t even get you on the bus.

The Regional Transportation Commission unanimously approved an across-the-board fare hike for its general bus service, Strip bus service and paratransit service.

“I am loathe to support a fare increase during these challenging economic times,” said Mayor Oscar Goodman, who serves on the RTC. “Many people will suffer, but we have to balance that against one of two things: either get new revenues or cut service.”

Goodman chose what he called the lesser of two evils.

“I do support it (the fare hike), but I do it reluctantly,” he said.

On Jan. 11, a single general-service fare will increase to $1.75 and will increase again to $2 in 2010. The cost for a single ride on the popular Deuce double-decker bus service on the Strip will increase in January to $3, up from $2. Paratransit users will be charged $2.50 for a one-way fare beginning in January and $2.75 in 2010, up from $1.50.

Full-fare day passes for general service will increase from $2.50 to $4 in January and to $5 in 2010. Full-fare day passes for the Deuce will increase to $7 through 2010, up from $5.

Thirty-day passes for general service will increase from $40 to $55 in January and to $65 in 2010. A monthly unlimited paratransit pass will increase from $60 to $75 in January and to $80 in 2010.

Jacob Snow, RTC general manager, said if the fare hike had not been approved, there would have been an 18 percent cut in public transportation services across Clark County.

Public transportation in Mesquite, Laughlin, and Boulder City probably would have been cut as well as bus service west of Rainbow Boulevard. There would have been no 24-hour lines servicing the valley and major reductions to paratransit service, he said.

Declining sales tax revenue seems to be the culprit behind the fare increase. That revenue, which makes up about $129 million of the $180 million public transit operating budget, declined in 2008 and is expected to fall again in 2009.

Even with the fare increase, Snow said, the public transportation service will need to draw $7.4 million in 2009 and $6.4 million in 2010 from the Transportation Commission’s “rainy day fund” to meet operating expenses.

“We are eating into our rainy day fund even with the fair increase,” Snow said. The Transportation Commission’s “rainy day fund” has about $16.5 million in it, Snow added.

With out the fare hike, Transportation Commission officials predicted a $33 million deficit for the same level of service.

The fare hike was not greeted well by some transit riders, including College of Southern Nevada student Robin Drew.

“Oh gee, thanks,” Drew said when she learned of the raise.

Drew purchases a monthly bus pass and will have to pay $15 more a month to get around town. The 48-year-old said she was more shocked about timing than the increase.

“With the gas prices, us bus riders got the break car drivers didn’t,” she said. “I guess I have to be grateful they didn’t do this sooner.

“I can’t really afford it but I know people who don’t go anywhere because of the gas. Period.”

Other riders were more understanding.

Nurse’s assistant Karen Smith was riding the bus for the second time Thursday and didn’t believe the rate increase made a difference.

“It’s still affordable,” said Smith, who shrugged her shoulders. “The economy is low. They got to raise something.”

Visit www.RTCSouthernNevada.com to learn more about the fare increases.

Review-Journal writer Maggie Lillis contributed to this report. Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904.

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