MARTA fares go up Thursday

It’s a lot, and may be a long time coming. But it still won’t wipe away the agency’s money issues.

For starters, fare increases have limited impact. Like anything else, when tickets cost more, people buy less.

As riders start paying their extra 25 cents Thursday, the sad fact is they’re only tapping the brakes on the agency’s painful financial slide.

The fare hike

● A regular ride goes from $1.75 to $2.

● A monthly pass goes from $52.50 to $60, rising more in following years.

● A monthly pass for Mobility handicapped service goes from $105 to $108, and higher in subsequent years.

● MARTA CEO Beverly Scott said it was time for a fare increase in any case.

How hike helps MARTA

More money overall:

● Fiscal year 2010: $4.8 million more (partial year)

● FY 2011: $7.9 million more

● FY 2012: $9.4 million more

Fewer rides taken:

● FY 2010: 12.7 million less (from an earlier forecast that may be revised)

● FY 2011: 14.4 million less

● FY 2012: 20.9 million less

Sympathies to the tall

And for parents who are used to bringing their kids for free, MARTA is replacing its age requirement with a maximum height. Starting Thursday, children under 46 inches tall ride free. MARTA still limits the free fare to a maximum of four kids per paying adult.

A bullet dodged, for now

During the 2009 legislative session, MARTA leaders said the financial situation was so bad they would have to cut service by as much as one day a week if they didn’t get help.

Long-term, they said, the agency needed a bigger source of funding. MARTA is the only major transit agency in the country that receives no significant, sustained state funding, MARTA officials say.

In the shorter term, they wanted the state to lift a ban on using MARTA’s capital reserves — money MARTA already has sitting in the bank — for operating expenses. The Legislature left that hanging. But another local agency came in with a swap of $25 million from the federal stimulus, which saved the day, for now. Next year, MARTA plans to keep all its current cost cuts in place.

Other cost cuts

MARTA has already:

● Reduced service as of Aug. 15.

● Furloughed employees.

● Eliminated management merit raises.

Also Thursday

Where parking fees already are charged, they go up by $1.

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