The first increase in bus fares since 2009 was approved Monday by the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors to avoid a loss of state funding.
Beginning in February, bus riders will pay $2 instead of $1.50, the day pass will increase $1 to $5 and the monthly pass will rise $11 to $66.
However, the agency will offer a new 10 percent discount on day passes if pre-purchased from any OCTA vendor.
The fare increase is the result of the agency needing revenue covering at least 20 percent of its costs. If it falls below the 20 percent margin, then the OCTA risks losing state funding, which accounts for half of its $267-million budget.
"We don't want to raise bus fares, but, unfortunately, the financial circumstances we find ourselves in require us by law to have a 20 percent fare box recovery and it was starting to dip down below that," said board Chairman Paul Glaab.
Losing state funding would have required draconian cuts in service, Glaab said.
OCTA board member John Moorlach, who is also the Orange County Board of Supervisors chairman, agreed.
It was necessary "when you've got to pay all these bus drivers and their pensions and benefits and maintain these buses with the fuel costs up," Moorlach said. "And this formula doesn't even include the acquisition cost of the buses and they're $500,000 apiece."
Moorlach was sensitive to how the increase would affect many of the agency's riders. Moorlach suggested OCTA officials consider how to increase service in cities such as Santa Ana, where there is more demand, than the southern portion of the county.
"Who takes a bus in Laguna Niguel? Those buses are empty," Moorlach said.
-- City News Service