Thursday, February 16, 2006

RGRTA Hates Poor People

Allow me to be the first to compliment or better yet praise RGRTA for their management of RTS service over the past decade. Fares have been maintained at an affordable level, new service has been introduced, customer service has been improved, and Renaissance Square will undoubtedly (IMHO) be a major success not only for bus riders, but area residents as a whole. That being said, the new "simplified" fare structure proposed by RGRTA is an absolute travesty and must be stopped.

I understand the logic behind "simplifying" the RTS fare structure. The current multi-zone system is a tad convoluted and could scare away potential discretionary riders (i.e., those who choose to ride the bus, not those who have no choice). But doing away with transfers and forcing everyone to pay $1.25 every time they get on the bus is an assault on the urban poor, whether by overt or subconscious effort.

Allow me to explain. Currently, Patron X takes the bus from near their home on Jefferson Avenue, heads downtown, and then transfers to a second bus to go to his/her job in Irondequoit. Patron X currently pays $1.25 for the Jefferson-Downtown trip and $0.15 for a transfer to the Downtown-Irondequoit trip for a total of $1.40 one-way. Under the new fare structure, Patron X would be forced to pay $2.50 for that same trip or purchase a day-pass for $3.00 (that would go up to $3.50 in October). Either way, Patron X will be paying more while everyone else will pay less (and doesn't it feel good to pay less?). It is even more appalling when you consider that someone who lives on Bay Street in the City and works on Lexington Avenue in the City would have to pay $2.50 but someone who lives in Batavia and works downtown would only pay $1.25.

Does this sound fair to you? "It's going to mean different things to different people, depending on their travel pattern," explained Jacqueline Halldow, an RGRTA spokesperson. Be honest Jackie, it means that the working poor clustered in the City of Rochester will pay more and face more confusion. Sure, it will be less confusing for suburbanites to take the bus into town, but it won't seem less confusing to minimum-wage-paid city residents who must now decide between purchasing a $3.00 day pass or a $1.25 one-way fare every day? Clearly, RTS makes more revenue from the working poor who rely on the bus to get them to their jobs (wherever they may be) than from discretionary riders, who are more comfortable driving alone in their SUV than riding the bus. So why is RTS proposing to make the working poor pay more while giving wealthier residents a break?

My proposal is to have two zones, city and suburb. All rides beginning and ending within the city would cost $0.50, all rides that begin in the city would cost $1.00, and all trips that begin outside of the city would cost $1.50. When a bus exits the city fare zone, an enunciator would let patrons know that they will have to pay the suburban fare when they exit the bus. I would also re-institute the downtown free fare zone, allowing people to hop on and hop off anywhere within the Inner Loop and High Falls for free.

Hopefully I'm wrong about this because in all likelihood, it will easily pass the RGRTA Board which is dominated by suburban Republicans who are seemingly hellbent on destroying the City of Rochester. Using the bus system to encourage suburban sprawl and harm the city is a new and innovative way of doing so.