News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 31, 2013

Bus fares going up in ’14

Possible 25-cent increase to help cover shortfall

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute bus fares to riders are expected to increase next year by about 16 percent.

Brad Miller, transportation director, said the increase, which has not yet been scheduled, would likely be about 25 cents, but that has not been officially determined.

The current bus fare is $1.50.

Bus fares have not increased since 2010, Miller said, and the state has demanded cuts of about 30 percent from the city’s transit budget, making spending cuts or new revenue necessary to keep the system running.

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, after reviewing the city’s 2013 budget, determined in March that the transit utility, which operates city buses, must cut its spending by $837,000 — more than 30 percent of its entire budget.

As a result of those mandated cuts, the transit utility froze all capital purchases in 2013, Miller said. A fare increase of a quarter would make only a small dent in making up the lost revenue, he said.

“Twenty-five cents is not going to float the boat, but every nickel helps,” Miller said.

It costs a little more than $3 million annually to operate the bus system, said Mayor Duke Bennett. Most of that comes from the state and federal governments. Only about $500,000 is covered by fares, advertising or donations, he said.

For the past couple of years, the city has avoided using local tax dollars to fund the transit utility, Bennett said. That is likely to change in 2014 to help the utility meet its funding gap, he said.

As for new cuts to spending, the Transit Utility has reduced costs where it can, Miller said. “We’re doing things on a daily basis to try and alleviate the situation,” he said.

An annual report showing transit utility fares around the state helps Terre Haute determine the price of a trip on the bus, Miller said. After reviewing that report, it will become clearer what the new fare should be, he said.

Most bus riders understand that a fare increase after three years is needed, Miller said. Although an increase is never welcome, it is necessary, he said, in light of rising expenses, including higher fuel costs, maintaining aging equipment and greater salary and employee benefits costs

“It’s just a fact of life,” Miller said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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