Last week, RTA CEO Joe Calabrese sent a letter to the transit authority's board of trustees
proposing a rate hike and a slight service cut for 2016.
Shortly thereafter, the Youngstown-based Ohio Organizing Collaborative released the results of an RTA ridership survey. It found that the biggest concern among users of public transit was affordability.
More than 450 people took the survey, led by both OOC and Service Employees International Union Local 1. Two-thirds of respondents said they don't have regular access to a car and rely on public transit for daily trips.
The proposed base fare increase from $2.25 to $2.50, (and the Paratransit fare increase from $2.25 to $3.50), was seen by many as unfair.
“I already thought that $2.25 was really steep,” said daily transit rider Chris Brown of Bedford Heights. “I’m just taken aback that it’s going up. Gas prices seem to be down. If anything I’d be expecting some relief. This should be an area that should be well funded and well supported by our government. I’m just really blown away.”
A press release from the OOC acknowledged the lack of funding for public transit from state and federal sources, but said that RTA needs to find ways to deal with its finances without "taxing" its riders, a large percentage of whom are poor.
"RTA points out that fares have not increased in seven years," reads the release, "but many survey respondents pointed out that since 2009, a one-way pass no longer covers transfers. This essentially amounts to a backdoor fare increase since they are forced to buy an all day pass, which costs $5."
The second and third-ranking concerns among survey takers were the quality of bus stops and shelters, and the duration of their trips.
RTA media relations' Linda Krecic told Scene
in a phone call that the 2016 budget was as of now only proposed. The board will continue to deliberate and hear public comments before making a decision about raising fares.
"What we want to convey," said Krecic, "is that this is a process."