CITY HALL — An attempt by Big Blue Bus officials to raise fares will have to wait at least two more weeks.
Facing a $6.1 million deficit, the transportation company has been trying to gain support for its first significant fare increase since 2002, but in recent weeks has met with delays because of officials’ concerns the proposed increases were too severe and would burden students, seniors and the disabled.
Under the largest of the proposed increases, fares would go from 75 cents to $1.50 for regular riders, from 25 cents to 75 cents for seniors, the disabled and those on Medicare, and from 50 cents to 75 cents for students. Discounted transfers would also be eliminated.
The council was scheduled to make the fare increase decision on Tuesday, but the item has been postponed until May 25, City Hall officials said.
The council at its last meeting discussed the increase but directed staff to prepare a more detailed analysis of potential service cuts and additional revenue streams.
Dan Dawson, BBB’s customer relations manager, said officials were not yet prepared to release revised fare increase options. But he said the bus company would present the council with options that include more moderate increases, coupled with the service reduction scenarios those increases would require.
He said the revenue projections that underlie the bus system’s need for a fare increase are not expected to change significantly, but officials are “looking at possible ways that we could lessen the increase on the senior fare.”
He said the BBB’s senior fare has been 25 cents for 25 years, but added that the bus system wants to keep rates low for the elderly.
“That’s always our utmost goal,” he said.
Dawson said if the council approves a fare increase May 25 the bus system will be able to implement new rates by its target date of Aug. 29.
Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown said the bus system’s budget deficit needs to be fixed, but added it makes sense to take more time studying the issue.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to have to raise the rates, but I don’t know if we’re going to have to raise them that much, that fast, especially on seniors,” he said.