MTD lowers rates, makes passes more affordable to community

With the economic crisis and unemployment rates rising in the area, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) has lowered the annual pass rate from $235 to $60 to ensure that mass transit remains affordable.

The MTD’s Board of Trustees met on Wednesday to discuss the FY2010 budget. Along with lowering the annual pass rate, the Board also discontinued high school and younger school passes as well as seasonal passes.

According to a MTD press release, these revisions are being adopted on a one-year trial period, but depending on the outcome, at the end of the year the Board will consider making these changes permanent.

“We’re hoping that it’s very successful,” said Tom Costello, assistant ,managing director of C-UMTD.

The student fee is separate, however. MTD consults with the University Board of Trustees to set the price. The student price for next year will be $38.00.

The affordability of this pass may encourage students to purchase them, Costello said.

“We think were going to sell quite a few of these,” he added.

One benefit of the bus system’s availability and newly lowered rate is that it many students become comfortable with riding a bus and take that skill with them when they graduate, Costello said.

MTD was able to lower annual pass rates because Illinois’ mass transit subsidy increased.

“The increase in state subsidy was pretty significant,” said Willard Broom, MTD board chairman.

This also allowed MTD to make price cuts without cutting revenues.

“The loss in fares is made up by the state subsidy,” Broom added.

According to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the economy has had a negative effect on mass transit, especially in Chicago. Chicago’s current combined shortfall from Transit Authority, Metra and Pace is approximately $61 million. RTA attributed this gap to reduced collections of sales and real estate transfer tax.

Additionally, the American Public Transportation Association cited that more than 80 percent of U.S. transit agencies are encountering falling revenues.

The state subsidy will aid C-U MTD in combating falling revenues, but it remains to be seen if the state subsidy will continue and what effect it will have on the their permanent policy and rates.

“We’ll just cross that bridge if and when we come to it,” Broom added.