Valley Regional Transit voted Monday to increase bus fares by 50%. It’s VRT’s first fare increase in 16 years, and they predict ridership numbers will decline by up to 10%.
And on the sidelines of the unanimous vote was a voice making a unique claim.
Debbie Lombard-Bloom is running for Boise City Council and believes that VRT should eliminate fares altogether.
“Ridership of our bus should be part of our culture,” she says.
Current fares cover just 8% of VRT’s operating costs, with the rest coming from federal grants, cities and sponsorships. That’s a small enough percentage that Lombard-Bloom says VRT should be able to scrape it together.
Mark Carnopis is a spokesperson for VRT and says there’s still a pretty big barrier to thinking about totally free buses.
“We haven’t totally closed the book on it,” Carnopis says, “but really at this point, it would be extremely difficult to pull that off.”
Without a local option tax or more reliable state funding source, Carnopis doesn’t see a fare-free system as a viable option.
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