By Ted AYALA
One year after a fare hike for the Beeline and Dial-A-Ride, the Glendale City Council voted in favor of raising fares even higher at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. With the city’s transportation fund dwindling amid wilting city revenues, director of Public Works Steve Zurn explained the move.
“We established the fare at 25 cents in 1995,” said Zurn. “Previous to that it was free. We continued to expand service from 1984 into the late 1990s and we have begun to experience a revenue gap. Now it’s time for us to look and see where we’re most comfortable with the system, both from an operations standpoint and a revenue generating standpoint.”
Transit Manager Kathryn Engel reminded the council that the ridership for the bus system has been united on one point.
“We’re very comfortable with rate changes,” she said. “But please don’t cut services. We’ve heard this from our Dial-A-Ride passengers who tell us that that [it’s] their lifeline. [They would] be willing to pay the [proposed rate hike to] $2 as long as the service isn’t cut.”
Eventually, Engel explained, the Transit Department decided on an option incorporating “modest” fare hikes and service cuts.
Adding to a fare increase from 50 to 75 cents beginning October of this year will be two further rate increases beginning 2012. By fiscal year 2013-14, these increases will bring the cost of riding the Beeline to $1.25, making it just a quarter shy of current Metro rates and equaling Foothill Transit rates – both of them transit systems operating across entire regions.
Engel added that the sting of the rate increases will be offset slightly with the implementation of monthly and 10-ride passes, which will save riders 25% and 10% off their rides respectively.
Fare policies will also be adjusted, with the eligible age of senior fares climbing from 60 to 62.
Dial-A-Ride patrons will see a two-step increase in rates totaling 50 cents, bringing the total to $1.50. The eligible age to ride the Dial-A-Ride will also increase to 65.
One of the routes targeted for cuts is Route 3, which runs from the Americana on Brand, through the Montrose Shopping Park, and ending at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada. Service cuts effected will be a decrease in bus frequency rates north of Glendale Community College, affecting the portion of the route that lies in Montrose, La Crescenta and La Cañada.
“That service won’t be missed and it will save us $400,000 a year,” said Engel.
Citing a very low ridership, Route 13, which connects Glenoaks Canyon to Downtown Glendale, is slated to be scrapped altogether.
Zurn also noted that further rate increases and service cuts are possible in the near future as the transportation fund’s reserves are forecasted to last only through the next two years.
“Just want to remind everyone out there that we may be back here in two years,” said Councilman Dave Weaver.
“It’s the most friendly bus I’ve ever taken in my life,” said Rashawn Washington, who is student union vice president at GCC. “For a struggling college student, it’s difficult to find [affordable] transportation to get to school every day. These [increases] will hurt a lot of students in Glendale.”
“There’s will be a 33% [increase] for the senior citizens paying for their monthly bus passes,” said resident Richard Espiritu. “Do you know how much food that is going to cost a senior citizen living on a fixed income?”
Councilman Rafi Manoukian spoke out against the proposals. “We’re in an economic crisis and we’re increasing fees on those who need [the Beeline and Dial-A-Ride] the most,” he said. “I don’t agree with that at this point.”
Speaking as a Beeline patron, Mayor Laura Friedman stated the urgency and necessity of the increases and cuts.
“I know what it’s like to ride it and know how important it is to people. I understand that it’s difficult to ask people to contribute more, especially when they’re suffering [economically]. But at the same time, we’re in a position in the City Council where we can’t win tonight. I support those fare increases – reluctantly.”