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Alter fares, not service, bus riders tell transit

Clallam Transit System's board of directors heard support for its proposed fare increases but not its proposed holiday closures during a public hearing Monday, March 15, in Sequim.

The hearing on the proposed fare increases will continue April 19 in Port Angeles and May 17 in Forks. The holiday closures hearing will continue May 17 in Forks.

General manager Terry Weed said after 13 years it is time to consider a fare increase to slow the drawdown of reserves.

The proposed increases plus other cost-cutting steps would only delay future service reductions, he said.

The agency already has stopped discretionary spending, lengthened its capital replacement schedule and frozen salaries of non-union employees, Weed said.



Pass cost same

The cost of monthly passes won't change, to encourage people to buy passes, he said.

Patrick Morris said the cost of an all-day pass should be increased from $2 to $3.

"You shouldn't rely upon sales taxes. It's not unreasonable to ask the riders to pay more."

Fares account for 12 percent of Clallam Transit's budget, with the balance coming from the six-tenths of

1 percent sales tax that produces $6 million a year.

"Three dollars a day for six days is $18, which is less than a tank of gas. I'm all for it, just do it and get it done," he said.



Holiday workers

Morris didn't support the proposed holiday closures, though.

He rides the bus six days a week but can't always get from Port Angeles to his restaurant job in Sequim because of the lack of Sunday service.

Clallam Transit already doesn't operate on six holidays and if he can't work, he can't contribute to the sales taxes that help support the system, Morris said.

Sequim resident Joseph Chiarella said he realizes costs increase but it's important to maintain transit service, especially for lower income people.

He's a senior who uses Dial-A-Ride and he said last year that 25 cents per trip was too low.

What bothers him is the $1 surcharge which is a 600-percent increase, Chiarella said.



Needs Dial-A-Ride

His wife, Georgia, said she supported the proposed fare increase.

It's important to continue providing Dial-A-Ride service because the prevalence of macular degeneration means a lot of people in

Sequim shouldn't be driving, she said.

Proposed changes include:

• The 75-cent single-zone fare for Paratransit, Dial-A-Ride and adult Clallam Transit riders would increase to $1 effective July 1.

• Paratransit and Dial-A-Ride riders also would pay a $1 surcharge for service more than three-quarters of a mile beyond a regular bus stop.

• The 25-cent single-zone fare for seniors would increase to 50 cents.

• The 25-cent charge for a second zone and the 50-cent charge for a third zone would change to a single 50-cent surcharge for Route 30, the Port Angeles-Sequim commuter, and for Route 14 between Port Angeles and Forks.

• The cost of a day pass would increase from $2 to $3, and all Dial-A-Ride trips, now free, would cost $1.

• The summer youth pass would increase from $10 to $20.



Sagging tax take

The proposed fare increase would provide an additional $89,000 estimated revenue. It would be the first increase since 1997 when fares increased 25 cents across the board from 50 cents to 75 cents.

Clallam Transit also proposes saving an estimated $64,000 by eliminating service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday in January; Presidents Day, the third Monday in February; Veterans Day, Nov. 11; and Thanksgiving Friday.

Finance director Jamie Collier said the agency's sales tax collections were $517,000 below what was expected in 2009 and they aren't expecting a rebound soon.

Balancing the 2010 budget will require using $720,000 from reserves and if that continues, reserves will be gone by 2012, she said.

"The impact is really to delay the day of reckoning," Collier said.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.







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