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Open house will address planned bus fare hikes

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Of the Keizertimes

An open house next week will address across-the-board fare increases for Salem-Keizer Transit.

The system operates Cherriots buses and the CherryLift service for the disabled, and officials said the increases are part of a biennial price review.

Keizer’s open house will be from 5:15 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, at Keizer City Hall. The board won’t be deliberating there but the district will be taking comments from residents.

The district produced a comparison showing the Cherriots service is cheaper than Portland’s Tri-Met as well as bus service in Medford, Tacoma, Everett, Eugene and more. For single-fare riders, Klamath Falls was the same and Olympia was cheaper. The comparison also held up for adult monthly passes, which the district’s comparison shows are cheaper than many area cities. Olympia, Wilsonville and Bend have lower prices.

The district proposes raising single adult fares by 25 cents, day adult passes by 75 cents, monthly passes by $5 and annual by $60.

Steve Dickey, director of transportation development for the district, said SKT’s upcoming budget relies on these fare hikes.

“If this is not increased by the board we’ll have to most likely look at a service reduction because we don’t have anywhere else we can make that significant a cut,” Dickey said.

Kate Tarter, a board member representing Subdistrict 3 – which includes part of Keizer along with north Salem – said the forums are to “give people who are impacted a chance to speak up.”

She acknowledged some difficulties with the district’s service cuts and changes last year – which added service to some areas while removing it in others – saying some longtime riders were no longer able to use the system.

At the same time, she said, ridership numbers are at about where they were prior to the changes implemented in September 2009.

“That means we’re carrying the same riders with less (service) hours,” Tarter said.

Ron Christopher, who represents Subdistrict 2 in Keizer, didn’t get into specifics about the proposals, but said he generally wants to “charge the prevailing fee” and that riders should bear the brunt of paying for the service.

“That’s one aspect … to keep the budget balanced,” Christopher said, noting the district as a whole is “way under the average” fare for other transit districts in the area.