Bus Fare Increase on Hold

(Photo: Bitsandpieces1.blogspot.com)

A planned increase in bus fares for Hamilton County’s Metro bus system, scheduled to take effect Sunday, has been delayed, as Cincinnati City Council hasn’t yet voted to approve the jump.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which manages and operates the Metro system, had planned to raise fares 25 cents across the board this weekend. Under the plan, the cost for travel within Cincinnati’s city limits would jump from $1 to $1.25, and from $2.25 to $2.50 in outlying suburbs in Butler and Warren counties.

SORTA’s board of trustees unanimously approved the fare hikes Dec. 12 but city council, which makes the final decision in the matter, hasn’t given its approval. Whenever council votes, it will take about two weeks to implement the higher fares, SORTA officials said.

City council and Hamilton County commissioners are considering revamping how the bus system is funded later this year, including possibly shifting oversight from SORTA to the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.

When SORTA last increased fares in 2005, some council members initially resisted the proposal, stating that Hamilton County should kick in more money to help pay for the regional bus system’s cost. With a new Democratic majority on the commission since last month, that option is being reviewed.

The city of Cincinnati gives about $35 million annually to SORTA from its earnings tax revenues, which funds roughly half of SORTA’s nearly $74 million yearly budget.

SORTA states the fare increases are needed to cover rising costs for fuel and health care coverage for its workers, as well as reductions in state funding. Although the proposal would result in a cumulative increase in fares of more than 55 percent since 2004 for some routes, the Metro system still would have some of the lowest base fares in the nation, SORTA officials said.

Metro provides more than 22 million rides per year, and brings about 20 percent of downtown Cincinnati’s workforce into the city each weekday.

— Kevin Osborne

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