When I moved to increase bus fares in 2009, it was a hard decision that came out of a lot of study and discussion. I met with the Madison Bus Advocates and laid out the options. I can't say they liked the one I picked, but they did see it coming.
The mayor claims he's doing this so that he can provide service to the Owl Creek neighborhood, which is isolated and has had some challenges. Adding service is a good thing, but the cost next year will be about $63,000 while the fare increase will produce well over $600,000. Moreover, Soglin left $384,000 in levy authority on the table. In other words, he could have easily added service to Owl Creek without raising fares.
In the 2011 campaign, both Paul and I promised that we wouldn't increase fares "in the near future," yet Paul has now proposed an increase in only his second budget since being reelected. When I answered that question, I didn't take "in the near future" to apply only to the very next budget.
And there are more differences. My 2009 increase came after a decade without a general fare increase, and thjs increase pretty closely matched the rate of general inflation in the intervening years. Paul is proposing his fare increase only three years after the last one and his increase of 12.5% compares to cumulative general inflation since 2009 of only 7.4%.
I felt we had to increase fares because we faced two problems. We were looking at another round of service cuts, and Metro's once healthy reserves were gone. I also knew that a twenty-five cent increase would do nothing but stem the bleeding. It wouldn't have allowed us to expand service, replenish the reserves, or create the wildly popular reduced fare program for the working poor championed by now-Alder Lisa Subeck, Brian Solomon, and some others.
Moreover, my plan was to do this most difficult of political things just once during my tenure. I had no thought of ever going through this fight again. I felt we did what we needed to do, I didn't like doing it, and I wasn't going there again in a third term.
So why is this mayor increasing fares after only a few years since the last increase after promising that he wouldn't -- and without consulting anybody in the community? He didn't make himself available to answer those questions when a Cap Times reporter called him the other day.
This will be an uphill fight for Paul just as it was for me. But Paul hasn't thought it through and hasn't laid any groundwork. He faces a council stocked with members who got elected just last year promising to oppose a fare increase. If the mayor wants his fare increase, he has to make a stronger case for it than he has so far.