Fuel costs may hike SamTrans' fares

As someone who “nickel and dimes” to save up for a new place for he and his wife, Matthew Swick says a proposal to increase SamTrans bus fare is not a matter of simply losing pocket change.

The 30-year-old Redwood City resident knows gas prices are soaring, which is why he uses the bus during his commute to work. Now, facing a possible $8 or $16 per month increase for a bus pass, Swick said there is little more he can do than scrape together more quarters and dimes each month.

“It’s that or I start walking a lot more,” Swick said. “And I can’t go to work in a suit and tie [while] riding my skateboard, all sweaty.”

The proposed fare increase would hit the pockets of SamTrans’ roughly 47,000 average weekday riders, many of whom can little afford to pay much more fortransportation.

Three-fourths of riders take the bus at least five days per week, about 60 percent do not have access to a car and two-fifths have an income of less than $25,000 per year, according to SamTrans.

“In order to get to where I want I have no choice but to [use] SamTrans,” said Jahmal White, 20, who rides the bus to Cañada Community College in Redwood City. He called the fare increase frustrating.

The fare increase ranges from 25 cents extra per individual ride to $8 more for a monthly pass and an additional $16 for a monthly pass on the express lines, which are faster. Fares would also increase by 50 cents for paratransit, which is used each weekday by more than 1,000 riders who are unable to used fixed-route service.

The proposed fare hikes coincide with the rising cost of diesel fuel, officials said. When the last fare increase was approved in September 2005, the agency paid $2.54 per gallon. That price is now $3.35 and reached as high as $4.16 in July, a big jump considering it uses about 3 million gallons of fuel each year, according to SamTrans.

The fare hike will generate about $1.5 million annually to help offset soaring fuel costs, said SamTrans spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

There will be community meetings on the issue Oct. 6, 7 and 8 and a public hearing at the Oct. 15 SamTrans board of directors meeting, Dunn said. The board would then vote on the increase at itsNov. 12 meeting and it would take effect Feb. 1, she said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

More to ride

SamTrans’ fare increase plan:

46,720 Average weekday ridership on buses in July

7.2</strong> percent Increase in ridership since July 2007

1,172 Average weekday ridership for paratransit services

25 cents Increase for single, one-way adult bus fare ($1.50 to $1.75)

50 cents Increase for single use of paratransit service ($2.50 to $3)

$16 Increase for monthly express bus ridership pass ($128 to $144)

$8 Increase for monthly bus ridership pass ($48 to $56)

$1.5 million Additional annual revenue created by fare hikes

Source: San Mateo County Transit District

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