Mass transit might put more weight on Tucson general fund

Published: Apr. 7, 2015 at 1:01 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Mass transit is the only way some people can get where they need to go. But someone has to pay.

That's not only through fares. Everyone in Tucson pays something through the general fund. And that could go up.

Sun Tran buses and the Sun Link street car aren't bringing in as much money per passenger as they once did, and some costs are going up.

On Monday Tucson's Transit Task Force heard from the city transit administrator that mass transit revenue is forecast to drop by $2 million; expenses in personnel, maintenance, and debt payments will go up by $4.6 million. That means the city's general fund could need to kick in about $6.4 million more this coming year.

But there are possible solutions. The SunGo card is supposed to be marketed more aggressively. Some unexpected effects from that card might have led to the revenue drop in the first place. More flexible fare arrangements such as a seven day pass might also help. And using smaller vehicles where possible is being done. But the savings from that are unknown. Some task force members said that a fare increase should not even be an option.

"In order to make up the difference, will have to wait until we get into the budget process with Mayor and Council. At that point in time, we will have to adjust our forecast to meet whatever budget they put before us," said City of Tucson transit administrator Jeremy Papuga.

"The mayor and council told them in December that we are not raising the fares. Do a marketing campaign to raise revenue, to put more people on the bus, which means more revenue. That's what they're directed to do, and that's what they need to do," said Transit Task Force member Brian Flagg.

"I think that the city is taking steps to do that with a more aggressive marketing campaign to try to get more people on the buses and new pass programs so that hopefully people use the bus more. So, I think there are some positive steps being taken," said Transit Task Force chair Gene Caywood.

This will be presented as information to the council tomorrow. Other options include asking the RTA to increase some funding earlier rather than later as scheduled, or cutting some routes could save money.

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