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DART considers rate increase
Just two weeks after implementing a pay-to-park program at two of its stations, DART is considering another way to increase revenue: raising fares.
The proposal is still in the early stages and won't be put up for an official vote by the entire board of directors until August, but early drafts of the plan call for the elimination of some fares, with others increasing from 23 to 47 percent. The fare increase would be the third since 2008. Unlike the paid parking program which only affects riders who live in non-DART cities, the fare increase would apply to all riders.
"The board reviews the opportunity for fare increases every couple of years," said DART spokesman Mark Ball. "This was a planned increase scheduled around the opening of the Orange and Blue line extensions in December. A lot of ideas are being discussed, but nothing is firm right now."
Ball said fares are typically increased every five years, with past increases occurring in the 2003 and 2008 fiscal years, as well as the upcoming 2013 fiscal year. However, a drop in sales tax revenue in member cities, which is where DART receives the majority of its funding, caused the board to raise rates in 2010.
The most popular pass sold by DART is the daily pass, with more than 6 million sold last year. Currently priced at $4, the rate would increase 25 percent to $5 a day if the proposal is passed. The passes have doubled in cost since 2003, when they initially increased from $2 to $2.50.
One of the major proposed changes is the creation of peak and off-peak times in the daily schedule. Peak hours are Monday through Friday from 4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The single-ride fare which previously cost $1.75 and was the second most popular fare in the system, would be replaced by a pass allowing unlimited rides during a two-hour span during peak hours for $2.50. Daily off-peak passes, allowing unlimited rides during off-peak hours, will now cost $1.75.
Other changes include increasing monthly passes from $65 to $80, annual passes from $650 to $800 and reduced fare passes in off-peak hours from 85 cents to $1.25, a 47 percent increase. Regional passes, which allow riders to travel on DART, the Trinity Railway Express and the Denton County Transportation Authority, will also be available for $5 for a two-hour pass and $10 for a daily pass.
The proposed increase comes at a time when overall DART ridership is decreasing, but light rail ridership is increasing. In the 2008 fiscal year, the total ridership for the DART system was nearly a 117 million, a number that is expected to decrease to 99.7 million in fiscal year 2013. However, during that same span, the number of riders using light rail has increased from 19.4 million to a projected 23.6 million.
During a presentation to the DART Budget and Finance Committee last month, DART officials said they expected a 3 percent drop in ridership if the fare increase goes into effect. However, even with the ridership decrease, revenue is expected to increase about 16 percent due to the rate increase.
Ball said community meetings will likely be held in May and June, with an official public hearing held at the June 26 board meeting. If the proposal gains committee approval, a final vote could be held on Aug. 28, with the rate increase beginning in early December.