News

Pricey passes

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Clallam Transit System monthly passes will increase dramatically at the start of next year despite protests from the public and senior citizen organizers.

 

The transportation agency faces a $250,000 budget shortfall for 2012, the result of a sharp decline in sales tax revenue alongside increasing fuel costs, general manager Terry Weed said.

 

Earlier this year nearly $188,000 in route and service cuts were approved but it still wasn’t enough, he said.

 

During a public hearing Oct. 17, board members reviewed public input before ultimately passing the increases.

Cost concerns

Judy Larson, of Sequim, wrote she felt the reduction in commission for sales outlets and up front coverage required for sponsoring institutions was reasonable, but the 50-percent increase added to pass rates seemed exceptionally high.

 

Larson suggested phasing in the increase so individuals can make the necessary budget adjustments to meet staggered increments over time.

 

Michael Smith, executive director of the Sequim Senior Activity Center, said he is afraid the increase of senior premium passes from $18 to $36 may be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for a senior who only makes $600 per month.

 

A $3 per mile surcharge for Paratransit riders who live outside a 3/4-mile corridor around fixed routes also could be too much, he said.

 

“Even if someone lives just one mile outside the area, they would pay $6 more per round-trip!” he said.

 

For such a rider needing to come to town, 15 miles a month would add up to $90 per month.

 

The surcharge is expected to generate an additional $35,000 in revenue. The annual impact of the increased fares is estimated at $123,000.

Impact on community

Michelle Rhodes, tour and program director of the Sequim Senior Activity Center, said the changes will have a greater impact on the entire community.

 

“If people are not out and about spending their money at the store or through other activities, it will result in a much larger impact on small businesses and community organizations,” she wrote in an e-mail.

 

In regard to the eligibility certification seniors and disabled persons must complete, Smith requested people already deemed eligible not have to go through the qualifying process again or have to pay the proposed $3 fee. He applauded that the pass could be used regionally.

 

Other changes include location-based pricing for Paratransit, eliminating Paratransit ticket books and pro-rated bus pass sales to agencies, reducing commission from 10 percent to 5 percent for pass outlets that sell at least 20 passes, reducing the match from 20 percent to 5 percent for employer-sponsored bus pass programs and establishing a 15-percent target recovery ratio, previously 12 percent, to be adjusted annually.

 

Changes will be implemented no sooner than Jan. 1, 2012.

 

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 

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