Miami-Dade Metrorail and Metrobus raise fares 50 cents, increase parking fee to help close looming transit deficit
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade Metrorail and Metrobus fares are to rise by 50 cents Oct. 1 — county commissioners' first attempt at closing a looming transit deficit.
Parking fees at Metrorail stations are to rise as well, commissioners decided Tuesday. Monthly passes are to cost $10, up from $6.25.
Also on tap: a transportation summit between commissioners, the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust and the public.
The moves come after a months-long stall.
Aware of a $20 million-plus annual transit deficit, commissioners in June voted to defer potential fixes such as a fare hike, demanding a pro forma list showing how current and future services could be funded and maintained.
The document later revealed the county would have to find more than $9 billon over 30 years to build planned projects and maintain current services.
Maintaining service alone would mean a $2 billion gap.
Commissioners took August's recess to mull the issue, reconvening Tuesday to vote on solutions.
Though a planned northern Metrorail extension has long been their focus, commissioners resolved to first work toward funding the existing transit system.
"You can't build a second floor if the first floor is crumbling," Commissioner Katy Sorenson said.
Without additional revenue, the county would have been forced to cut millions of miles of bus service.
Now, with higher fares, County Manager George Burgess said, "there may be some reductions, but they would be very gradual, and they would be limited."
He cautioned, though, that fulfilling that prediction will also require unifying the transit system.
It's split now between services funded by fares and other general monies and those supported by fares and revenues from the county's half-percent transportation surtax, approved by voters in 2002. The surtax was supposed to be limited to funding expanded services, not operations of existing services.
The Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust, charged with overseeing projects supported by the half-percent, would need to give the OK to streamline the funding.
The trust is to be part of the summit, requested by Commissioner Dennis Moss to discuss how the transit mess came about and where to go from here.
As another potential boost, Commissioner Barbara Jordan proposed restoring two cents to the 1993 five-cent capital improvements local option gas tax, but she withdrew the idea after commissioners showed little support during an informal vote.
She also put on hold a suggestion to charge rates based on distance and peak hours, choosing to wait an expected six months until a planned fare-box system is in place.
The newly-approved 50-cent-higher fares are to increase automatically every three years based on the federal consumer price index, which tracks what urban consumers pay for goods and services.
Increasing the fares and raising the parking fee is expected to generate about $1.3 billion over 30 years, helping to close the expected $2 billion gap.
Upping charges to riders was politically unpopular, Ms. Jordan said, "but I proposed them because it was the right thing to do."