YAKIMA, Wash — Yakima city bus fares would go up and service on most routes would be cut back under a five-year plan to be considered by the City Council as a way to shore up a projected budget shortfall.
Under the proposal, cost of a standard adult fare would rise from 75 cents to $1. Ticket prices for youths, people with disabilities and the elderly, and for monthly passes also would increase by varying degrees.
Transit officials say the changes are needed to cover increasing operating costs and to maintain the fleet of buses.
The plan, which is projected to save $800,000 through cost-cutting and bring in $200,000 in new revenue, will go to the council for an initial review on Tuesday. If the council wants to proceed, a public hearing will be held in early January. No date has been set. The council could then approve or reject the plan.
If nothing is done, the city’s transit agency says it will run deficits of more than $1.1 million in 2016 and $1.4 million in 2017.
To cut expenses, transit’s plan would eliminate bus routes before 6 a.m. and after 7 p.m., and six days on or around holidays.
The plan would also reduce the number of buses running at midday on five routes, end free rides on summer weekends, increase Vanpool fares, and streamline the agency’s insurance policies.
If implemented, some of the service cuts would go into effect as soon as March 1.
The plan would also shelve a proposed operations center in West Valley.
The projected budget shortfalls are being driven by rising operating costs, scheduled purchases of new buses in 2014 and 2016, and flat revenues. The cost of Yakima Transit’s fixed-bus routes are expected to go up by $1.3 million by 2017. Other operations are expected to increase in cost by $330,000 during the same period. The city is scheduled to buy three new buses for $1.35 million in 2014 and again in 2016, according to the forecast.
At the same time, revenue is projected to increase by $1.17 million. Money from local sales tax makes up more than half of the operating and capital budgets this year, while fares only account for about 10 percent. The agency also relies heavily on federal and state grants, but fewer are being awarded, said city spokesman Randy Beehler.
In the past, grants helped the city cover the cost of new buses, which now cost nearly $500,000 each, he said. “Covering those capital costs are turning more and more to us.”
“Resources are tight,” Beehler said. “You end up having to balance service levels with the ability to maintain your fleet.”