Tom Walker, in a letter to the editor in the June 2 South Whidbey Record made a compelling argument that the economics of the proposed fare increase don’t add up. I concur, and I would make several additional points.
Before a decision is made regarding this fare plan, I suggest the following:
The compelling motto of the Island Transit should be to “do no harm” to the persons needing transit services the most. Any fare increase should spare those who need, and who would feel the impact the most. This seems to be the thinking behind the proposed “Ride Pass Grant Program” but it falls way short.
Under Social Equity Considerations, Island Transit would provide one day passes to eligible 501.c.3 organizations and government agencies for distribution to those in need. This does not even qualify as a half-hearted effort! How will the needy find and get to one of these agencies in the first place? And would they need to return each time if they have ongoing transportation needs?
OK, let’s think further about how Island Transit could minimize the impact on those who most need bus services and can least afford it. How about free ridership to the working poor, the homeless, disabled and unemployed? Allow social service agencies to issue not just daily, but monthly — at least — passes to qualified individuals using their guidelines. Add to that school-age kids and the elderly.
Island Transit’s economic analysis projected a 30-40 percent decline in ridership the first year, with recovery expected over 4-5 years. I believe this decline would be disproportionately borne by those I listed above. Unfair. I can’t help but think this decline in ridership would be considerably less if these groups of riders were exempted.
I urge Island Transit to revise its financial impact analysis with these considerations in mind.
I have other questions: First, what to charge commuters going from the ferry to a park-and-ride? Second, what about the enforcement burden on bus drivers? I believe it should be minimal. Rather than a strict approach, have drivers give riders a handout explaining the fare policy and exemptions for those who don’t or can’t pay.
My bottom line: avoid any fares if possible. If not, do no harm to those most in need.