AC Transit postpones fare hikes


At its meeting Wednesday night, the bus agency's board asked staff to come back on June 25 with two different versions of a measure that they want to place on the November ballot.

Both options would extend the existing $48-per-year parcel tax, which is set to expire in 2015, for another four years, to 2019.

But one option would only increase the tax by $3 a month, or $26 annually, and the other would increase it by $4 a month, or $48 annually.

AC Transit officials say that charging property owners an extra $48 annually would bring in an extra $14 million annually, which would help the bus agency cope with its projected $20 million budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In a poll conducted by AC Transit last month, 64 percent of respondents said they would support paying $48 more annually and 67 percent said they would support paying $36 more annually.

A parcel tax increase would need a two-thirds majority to be approved.

At a public hearing three weeks ago, most speakers opposed a proposal by AC Transit's staff to raise fares by 25 cents per ride and increase the cost of monthly passes for youths, seniors and disabled riders.

AC board members said they want to postpone any fare increases until after the November election so they can see how badly the bus agency is affected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts in transit funding and if the ballot measure passes.

AC Transit officials say they face a large budget gap because diesel prices and employee health costs have skyrocketed and Schwarzenegger is proposing to cut funds normally reserved for public transit.

The bus agency serves western Alameda and Contra Costa counties, from Richmond in the north to Fremont in the south.

However, at this point the proposed parcel tax wouldn't go to voters in the southern Alameda County cities of Fremont and Newark, which are in a separate part of the transit district.

Under the current plan, the parcel tax increase would be levied on property owners in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Hayward, Oakland, Piedmont, Richmond, San Leandro, San Pablo and some portions of unincorporated Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

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