The Capital Metro board heard some passionate pleas Monday from people who use MetroAccess, an on-demand service for people with disabilities. They asked the board to reconsider a rate change that will increase the costs of bus rides.
"You are dealing with the people that have the least amount of money to deal with the bus service and yet need the bus service the most," Sandra Seekamp, a Capital Metro bus rider, said.
Earlier this week, the board considered raising the MetroAccess fare from $1.50 to $2.50 over the next two years. Members decided Monday on a smaller fare hike.
"There's a whole litany of cuts that we've experienced and to increase on us now even at the lower rate that's been proposed is unfair," Carlos Aleman of the American Council of the Blind said.
Some Capital Metro board members said the transit service has to raise rates to keep up with costs.
"We're not just looking at pushing fares out to the public to increase revenue, but we're also looking internally at ways to reduce costs and we've already done a lot of that," Dan Dawson, of Capital Metro, said.
Board Chairman Mike Martinez asked fellow board members to drop the rate increase for MetroAccess.
"When we're showing fiduciary responsibility and we're doing well at the agency, we're projected to end with $75 million in reserves,” he said. “I just feel like we have to be cognizant of the fact that our Access riders, they're 100 percent dependent on Capital Metro."
After some discussion, the board voted to raise MetroAccess fares by just 25 cents. The increase will take effect in 2015.
The board also approved efforts to shift bus service from Congress Avenue in downtown to Lavaca and Guadalupe.
A dedicated lane on those roads, already under construction, will help serve downtown and move buses through more quickly.
The transit agency says the change will improve service.
"Our population is increasing dramatically and Capital Metro is really responding to that by trying to add service wherever possible and making sure our service is the most productive that it can be," Dawson said.
The board also created a new premium fare for MetroRapid and other higher speed routes. Standard bus fares will remain a dollar for now but will increase by 25 cents in 2015.
Learn more about the new fare structure here.