Sioux Falls considers raising bus fare

The Argus Leader reports that the Sioux Area Metro, which provides mass bus transit to Sioux Falls, may soon implement rate hikes:

Sioux Falls bus riders could see increased fares next year for the first time since 1995.

Despite inflation, increased fuel prices and labor costs, Sioux Area Metro fares for a fixed-route ride have remained at $1, and paratransit rides $2. That puts the city’s fares in the lower third compared to about two dozen other cities, transportation planner Sam Trebilcock said.

“I think it’s due time we look at it,” Trebilcock said. “It’s been considered over a 17-year period a couple of times, and it’s something you need to look at every so often. I don’t think any business keeps the cost of their product the same for that period of time.”

To their credit, the folks at Sioux Area Metro and the Public Transit Advisory Board are aware of the costs a rate hike might impose not only on customers but on themselves as well. And they’re planning to take the very sensible step of actually asking folks affected by their decisions how they feel about it:

“Whatever fare adjustments are made, they need to be made to maintain ridership at at the current level, or encourage growth,” Meyerson said.

That’s why public input is key, said Deb Nelson, a member of the Public Transit Advisory Board.

“We impact a lot of people by raising it and while it would be irresponsible not to take a look at (fares), it would be irresponsible for us not to talk to the riders and really take a look at how we’re impacting them,” she said.

Affordable, available mass transit is a boon for everyone. Not only does using mass transit reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions; it also gives lower-income individuals (15.8% of Sioux Falls residents live below the poverty line, including much higher percentages of Native Americans and other minority groups) greater geographical mobility, affording them greater opportunity to frequent area businesses and making it easier for them to find a job, even if that job is across town.

That’s why it’s only appropriate that, of $11.5 million in operating costs, only $800,000 comes from rider fare – the rest comes from federal and local subsidies. Greater geographical mobility translates, all other things being equal, into greater upward mobility, which translates into more business. Indeed, if South Dakota didn’t have one of the most downright regressive tax structures in the U.S., I’d argue that increased costs should be borne not by low-income travelers, but rather by slightly higher taxes on high-income individuals and corporations. Consider it an investment.

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About sdpeacejustice

The SD Peace & Justice Center connects a grassroots network of South Dakotans working for social justice and against violence and oppression.
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