County increases transit fares
By Tom Harlan
Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday voted to increase transit fares for the first time in about 15 years.
Ten of the 13 commissioners approved raising Metrobus and Metromover prices from $1.25 to $1.50. Reduced fares, available to Medicare recipients, disabled people and Miami-Dade students, will rise from 60 cents to 75 cents.
The increases, to take effect in May, are expected to add about $25.4 million revenue through 2006 to operate the transit system - including Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover.
Miami Dade Transit needs the raises to match expenditures on services, keep up with inflation and lessen its dependence on state and federal grants, said transit director Roosevelt Bradley.
The increases also are designed to help cut the transit deficit, which has built up over several years to $60 million.
"We haven't had a fare increase in 15 years," Mr. Bradley said. "If we had kept up with inflation, things would be a little bit brighter.
"The price of fuel in the last 10 years has probably doubled," he said, "and we still have the best rate and ride in town."
Every major transit system in the country has raised rates, said Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, to keep up with rising fuel, maintenance and employee benefit costs.
Ms. Carey-Shuler, who led the county effort, was supported by nine other commissioners. Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto and Bruno Barreiro voted against it.
Jose "Pepe" Diaz originally opposed the increase because a reduced rate increase from 60 cents to 80 cents would affect the handicapped, the elderly and others who couldn't afford the increases.
But Mr. Diaz changed his mind after amendments changed the fare from 80 cents to 75 cents to comply with federal regulation.
Elderly riders using the county's Golden Passport program, low-income veterans with the Patriot Pass and Medicaid and Social Security recipients who ride free won't be affected by the changes. Disabled riders using special transportation services are to continue to pay $2.50.
The legislation will become law unless it's vetoed by Mayor Carlos Alvarez within eight days.
"We need to support our transit system," Ms. Carey-Shuler said. "After 15 years of no increases, it's about time."