Rybak speaks out against proposed transit fare hike

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said today that the Metropolitan Council’s proposal to increase transit fares would discourage riders.

He said the council, which oversees Metro Transit, should find other ways to fix its budget shortfall, which came about because of rising fuel costs and lower-than-expected revenue from the Motor Vehicles Sales Tax.

“At a time of skyrocketing gas prices, traffic congestion and global warming, we have an historic opportunity to dramatically improve and increase transit use,” Rybak said at a public hearing hosted by the Metropolitan Council today. “At this rare moment, we have the opportunity to make the single greatest shift in transportation patterns in a generation. We should seize this opportunity, not ignore it.”

The mayor said metro-area fares are already higher than many other cities including San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The Metropolitan Council is hosting a series of public meetings to discuss the possibility of a phased increase.

The first phase would increase regular fares 25 cents Oct. 1, according to a Metropolitan Council news release from late June. Metro Mobility service for people with disabilities would increase 50 cents at that time.

The second increase would come in 2009 and could add 50 cents to the cost of a bus, train or Metro Mobility ride.

Metropolitan Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said the organization has received a wide range of feedback during its first three meetings. All feedback, including Rybak’s, will be taken into consideration and used to make a decision about fares sometime in August, she said. 

Visit the Metropolitan Council’s website for a full schedule of upcoming public hearings.