Metro's proposal to raise fares hits the poor and disabled hardest. On Thursday, some of them sent a message loud and clear that they don't like it. Now some board members are questioning whether the price is too steep.
Metro Access provides door-to-door service for the disabled.
"I've been using it five to six times a week," said Heidi Case.
Metro wants to raise the price to a maximum fare of $7. That's for a one-way trip.
"It's going to continue to get higher and higher every single time," worries Case.
At Metro's board meeting, Case and other disabled riders in wheelchairs and with visual impairments, lined up side by side in solidarity. They testified during public comment, urging the board not to balance the budget on their backs.
While the proposal increases rail fares an average of 10 cents and bus up to 25 cents, the formula for Metro Access riders is double the fare and can sometimes vary widely.
"On the same day from the same point to the same point, two different prices. I know it varies by time of day. Different day. Different prices," board member Tom Downs said, raising his own concerns.
The problem with Metro Access is the fare is based on the fastest route at the time. The fastest route is usually rail, not bus, and rail is more expensive. Riders suggest changing the calculation so it's lower and reducing the maximum price to $6.50. A survey also shows higher fares disproportionately affect low income riders, who would more likely use the system less.
"People are taking less trips because they can't afford to go to all the places they used to go to," said Case.
The potential price hike adds up to $30 million for Metro, all of it and more needed to cover a $66 million increase to pay workers.
"The fare increase as well as all revenue go toward paying for the operation of the service,” explained Metro general manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “Certainly, employees are a very important part of providing the service.”
Metro encourages the disabled to use buses or trains if they can. It is free for any Metro Access rider.
The board does have leeway on which fares go up and how much. Metro Access riders argue they shouldn't pay such a high price.