Bus riders are likely to soon be paying more in Central Oregon. The Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council’s board is scheduled to look at fee increases at its meeting on Thursday.
It’s something that must happen if the Cascades East Transit service is going to be stable. The proposed changes aren’t unreasonable, despite the fact that it means another dive into local wallets.
First of all, COIC hasn’t changed its bus fare policy since Cascades East Transit opened.
The bus service relies basically on general fund revenues to pay for the service. But it has had budget cuts. It has eliminated some routes. And rather than reduce services, it’s looking for a way to keep the system running.
For instance, a fixed-route trip in Bend would go from $1.50 to $2. A monthly pass would go from $30 to $50. There’s also a proposed shift in how the bus service bills for regional trips. Currently, the charge is $3.75, no matter what the distance is. The change would bill based on distance. A shorter trip between Redmond and Sisters or Bend and Redmond would still be $3.75. Longer trips between Bend and La Pine would go up to $5.
There are still discounted fares available for people who qualify, though those would also increase under the proposal.
We hope the increases will not cause many riders to abandon the service. The bus rides are still a good deal, even a bargain. With the increase, fares do not cover 25 percent of the cost of the service.
COIC staff is still thinking about other funding options. Should it operate the bus service, or should it be a done by a transit district or districts? Should it seek funding tailored to each community or an overall approach?
And which tool should it use? A property tax, a payroll tax, a transit utility fee or a local sales tax?
For now, riders should pay more to keep up the service, before asking tax-paying voters to pay.