VTA fare hike is set for January

The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority plans multi-year fare increases. A public hearing on the plans will take place today, December 5, at VTA headquarters. The first of the fare hikes will become effective January 1. — File photo by Susan Safford

Straphangers can expect to pay more for bus fares starting January 1, following a Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) decision to increase fares next year. The VTA’s decision is part of a five-year plan that will see a steady rise in bus fares through 2018.

Next year, three-day passes will increase from $15 to $18. The annual pass, now $100, will rise to $110 and continue to rise $10 a year to as high as $150 by 2018. Senior and student annual rates would also see increases of $5 each.

“I’m not going to say the increase is insignificant,” VTA administrator Angela Grant told The Times Tuesday. “But I’m not expecting a huge outcry. We were fortunate for many years with the increase in ridership that was covering the gaps. But now that that’s leveled out, we need to raise revenue, it’s the responsible thing to do. We need to keep up and not rely exclusively on public funding. It’s a user fee.”

The decision to approve the fare increases for 2014 was approved at a consumer advisory board meeting on Thursday, November 21, Ms. Grant said.

The VTA provided year-round Island-wide transportation to nearly 1.16 million riders through November of 2013, a figure that is slightly down from the 1.18 million riders for a comparable period in 2012.

Ms. Grant said the fare hike will go toward “general operating expenses,” which have risen because of the increase in ridership over the last few years.

“Our operations and service has increased so we have to be responsible from the administrative side, to make sure we keep up with the demand,” Ms. Grant said. “We don’t want to get thwarted. We want to manage these changes locally. It’s time.”

The VTA will hold two public hearings at its administrative offices in Edgartown December 5, to discuss the long-term plan with the public.

The first hearing, scheduled at noon will be preceded by a monthly consumer advisory board meeting. Asked why a public hearing was only being held during business hours, Ms. Grant told The Times that the VTA had made an error and that they would hold a second hearing at 5 PM.

“I don’t expect this, but if there’s anything glaring following those hearings, we’ll hold a meeting on December 13,” Ms. Grant said.

This article was updated to reflect a correction in the number of riders in 2012.