First 30 cent jump takes effect April 1

The TriMet Board of Directors unanimously voted to begin raising its LIFT paratransit fares at its Wednesday morning meeting.

The vote means the LIFT fares will increase 30 cents each year until they reach the same level as the All-Zone cash fare for fixed-route buses and trains, which is currently $2.40.

The first 30-cent increase takes effect on April 1 of this year, raising the fare from $1.85 to $2.15. The next increase is scheduled for April 1, 2013.

Unlimited use passes would increase from $52 to $62 on April 1 and $72 on April 1, 2013. Twenty-ride punch cards would increase from $37 to $41 on April 1 and $47 on April 1, 2013.

Once the LIFT fares match the All-Zone fares, both will increase at the same rate from that point on. The ADA allows paratransit fares to be a maximum of twice the cost of a fixed-route fare, up to $4.80.

TriMet is currently facing a shortfall of up to $17 million in the budget that begins on July 1. A budget advisory committee has recommended a mix of fare increases and service cuts to close the gap. The LIFT fare increases closes the gap by $2 million.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires all transit systems, including TriMet, to offer equivalent alternative transportation to those who cannot use conventional buses and rail systems because of their disabilities. The LIFT system was created to provide door-to-door service for those covered by the ADA. Demand for its services has grown 37 percent during the past 10 years.

Advocates for the handicapped opposed the LIFT fare increases, arguing they would make the system too costly for many of those on fixed incomes.

In proposing the increase, TriMet officials argued the current fares are below comparable systems in other systems and require the LIFT rides to be subsidized by other revenue sources. The officials say the average cost of each LIFT ride is $29 and not that convention bus and rail service has been cut in recent years, while LIFT service has not been cut.

According to the officials, Most transit trips taken by people with disabilities and the frail elderly are on fixed-route buses and trains. About 11 million trips are taken on buses and MAX, compared to 1 million trips on LIFT.

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