Yesterday the board adopted a Fare Policy that will guide the board and our staff when deliberating changes to fares in the future. It details the fare change process and the objectives that will be considered when contemplating a fare change. In my opinion the policy is a great benefit to customers because it adds some transparency and accountability to the topic and the process.
The overall financial goal is to recover a minimum of 20 percent of transit operating costs with fares paid through the farebox by individual passengers and through our agreements with organizations like UT, ACC and the city of Austin. (The projected farebox recovery after the fares change on Jan. 16 is 12.5 percent.)
It’s tricky business, because we want to both keep fares affordable and yet also maximize revenue to help maintain and expand transit operations. So the policy attempts to provide a framework for striking the right balance.
But achieving a 20 percent farebox recovery goal is more than just raising fares. The other two actions that improve farebox recovery are increasing ridership and controlling/reducing costs. The policy acknowledges that fact, and the board emphasized this point and their desire for staff to focus on all three areas, not just fares.
Board Member Frank Fernandez, who chairs the Finance and Audit Committee and pushed for the creation of the policy, said, “Hopefully what this policy does is helps set expectations: this is our process when we’re looking at fares and trying to make them fair. We want them low enough so people can afford them but not hurt us in terms of our long term sustainability.”