Valley Regional Transit increasing fares, riders question timeliness

Posted at 8:09 PM, Aug 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-14 19:42:08-04

BOISE — In an era of ridesharing and e-scooters, you don’t hear as much about public transit. However, it’s still a necessity for many people, especially those with limited means or with disabilities.

“I do find it important because those who can’t drive or have difficulties walking, the bus is a great way to get around,” said rider Cori Lee Miller.

Riders like Miller take the bus home from work. It’s close, it gives her freedom, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Soon Valley Regional Transit is increasing its fares. Valley Regional Transit charges riders $1.00 for single-use, adult rider. After unanimous approval from their board members, that price will jump 50% to $1.50. The prices for other passes are also rising, some by 17% percent. The increase is meant to make the expenses of the trip more balanced.

"If the bus were full, and you had full-paying passengers on that bus, then that bus would pay for the trip,” said principal planner for VRT Stephen Hunt.

Miller says even a 50-cent increase is hard on her wallet.

“I’m one of those people that can only hold a part-time job, and I need to save as much money as I can.”

Others don’t mind the fare increase, especially compared to some of the other public transit costs.

“It’s cheaper than when I lived in Sacramento; it’s like three bucks for seniors and disabled, and for regulars, it was six bucks,” said rider Marilyn Worden.

If riders are paying more, they’re expecting to be paying for their transit to be on time, which isn’t always the case.

As the Valley continues to grow, traffic and construction are making certain routes, like Route 40 from Nampa to Downtown Boise, late, more than 50% of the time.

“It runs on the freeway, which tends to have of all the roads, that one tends to have the most variability in terms of its running time,” said Hunt.

Miller says the route she takes home from work has its fair share of problems.

“Most times because of construction on Cloverdale, it’s been getting here later than usual.”

However since 2016, the percentage of buses generally on-time has gone from 68% on-time to 72% on time.

“On-time performance is defined by a route that’s less than one minute early and less than 5 minutes late,” said Hunt.

According to their data, every year the total number of stops has increased, which is in part due to better data collection, but the opposite is true for the number of riders, a trend since the recession.

“Recently the trend has been down, which has been mirroring transit trends across the county including gas prices, so as the gas prices come down ridership tends to come down,” said Hunt.

Not every cost is increasing by 50 percent, but every pass price is increasing in some manner. Part of the money from the increased fares can go towards re-configuring routes or making schedule changes to account for more time. The increase starts on October 1st.

Valley Regional Transit says currently, fares cover only 8% of operating costs, which makes them heavily reliant on voluntary contributions from cities, counties and highway districts. More money from the increased fares could potentially go towards those costs, to help keep up with rider demand.

For route information from 2016 click here.
For route information from 2017 click here.
For route information from 2018 click here.
For route information from 2019 click here.
You can find more information on all the changing fares here.