Sun Tran closer to raising bus fares

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Sun Tran bus fares moved one step closer to increasing Tuesday night.

City council heard the transit task force's recommendation Tuesday, then voted to move on to the public hearing phase.

The vote was unanimous, but there was some debate among council members whether the fare increase is fair.

In the end, it will cost more to ride the bus.

The city needs to find $1.6 million to fund Sun Tran.  The city council has two choices, raise fares or reduce service.

"They would have us rather consider increases that are reasonable, if we have to, and avoid service cuts," said Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

The transit task force recommended a full fare increase of 25 cents to $1.50, day pass increases of 50 cents to $3.50, and the most controversial increase, the low income fair, up 20 cents to 60 cents.

"We just spent 45 minutes talking about a 20 cent increase.  I mean, my gosh," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.

Council members wrestled with the idea, Some suggesting a 50% increase to low income fares was too much too quickly. But Councilman Kozachik insists 60 cents isn't unreasonable.

"The low income fare is something the City of Tucson is offering to people, frankly, out of the goodness of our hearts," said Kozachik.

The city has no legal obligation to provide a low income fare and it's done so for years. The economy fare hasn't been touched in over 10 years.

"We haven't raised the fare in 11 years, so, its high time.  It's been skipped over a few times so this is about right," said Councilman Paul Cunningham.

"We are concerned about increasing the economy fare, but we're one of the only cities that has an economy fare," said Uhlich.

Council members agree the low income fare isn't going away.

"We'll try to phase in the increases so that no one group of people experiences a hit that they simply cant afford," said Uhlich.

But if taxpayers want an effective transit system, everybody's going to have to pay a little extra.

A public hearing about the potential fare increase. Is tentatively scheduled for April 12.

If council approves the increase, it will take effect July 1.