Despite Service Cuts, GG Transit Fare Hikes Are Outpacing Bridge Tolls

As it does every year, the Golden Gate Transportation District Board of Directors is set approve another 5 percent fare hike this week in its budget for the next fiscal year.

But bridge tolls don’t appear to be keeping pace with rising transit fares — a pattern that GGTHD board member and transit advocate Dave Snyder says unfairly burdens bus riders and encourages more car traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, as the agency cuts transit service despite increasing ridership.

“That’s the exact opposite of what we want to be doing,” said Snyder. “We’re not raising enough money to maintain transit service. We’re cutting transit service.”

A one-way adult fare for a two-zone trip from San Rafael to San Francisco is currently $5.25. That would increase to $5.50 on July 1, and another 5 percent every year at least until 2016. GG Transit ridership across the bridge has increased 6.2 percent over the past year, according to the district’s latest report [PDF].

Meanwhile, the agency is on its way to slashing its bus operating budget by $31.4 million from 2010 to 2020. (This year’s proposed bus operating budget is $84.7 million.)

But since 2002, tolls for car commuters have only increased one time — a 2008 hike that raised the cash toll 20 percent and the discount toll 25 percent. By comparison, transit fares have increased 5 percent or more every year since 2001. Compounding a 5 percent annual transit fare hike (an underestimate) over ten years yields an increase of about 65 percent.

Snyder said the next toll increase is expected to come in next year’s budget, after all-electronic toll collection is implemented, and that the agency is looking to approve future toll increases annually from there on. But he’s ”concerned that there will be pressure to keep bridge tolls as low as possible without regard to public transit. We have to catch up next year.”

The budget [PDF] is scheduled to go before the board’s Finance Committee tomorrow and be approved by the full board on Friday.