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MTS will be updating its fare structure starting on September 1st, 2019. Our Executive Director Colin Parent spoke about it with KPBS.

Changes to fare policies are often a mix of good and bad. As a general matter, as costs go up, agencies must either raise fares or reduce service to balance the books. Surveys of MTS riders show that 65% indicated they preferred higher fares over reduced service eventually fares. Still, agencies can make choices to minimize impacts to the most cost-sensitive riders.

On the Pros: MTS is keeping fares constant for those who purchase monthly fares. Costs are also reduced for Day Passes for youth passes and Senior Disabled Medical riders. Some redundant passes were also eliminated in in interest of simplicity and clarity.

On the Cons: MTS is raising one-way and Day Pass fares. The fare policy continues to preclude free transfers between bus routes. In fact, the policy expands that inequity by eliminating free transfers between trolleys.

As Circulate San Diego has detailed in the past, and again this week on KPBS, MTS is one of only two of the nation’s largest transit agencies to not allow free or reduced transfers between buses.

Free transfers are essential to make transit attractive to occasional riders, and those who do not already rely on transit as their primary mode of transportation. Studies have shown that the way for transit agencies to attract riders is to make service appealing for people who also have access to a car.

For MTS, that means ensuring that fare payments for transfers must make financial sense. While monthly pass holders do not have to worry about transfers, and get a pretty good discount, the fare structure punishes occasional riders that also own cars. That financial penalty deters those riders from using or returning to the system, ultimately undermining the agency's ridership goals.