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GrapeLine bus fares to double in January

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Posted: Wednesday, October 20, 2004 10:00 pm

Beginning Jan. 2, a chunk of Lodi's bus fares will double.

The existing general public GrapeLine fare will go from 50 cents to $1 each way, while the senior fare will increase from 25 cents to 50 cents. Dial-A-Ride fees will also go up.

It is the first increase in a decade, Transit Director Tiffani Fink said.

"We looked at what we could raise it to and still be aware of people's pocketbooks," she said.

"We'll be able to cover costs and pay for things we've had to put off. I feel comfortable this will be able to help us reach that goal."

Despite three residents speaking out against the increases during the public hearing, a bevy of them were approved with a 3-2 vote Wednesday by the City Council. Mayor Larry Hansen cast the dissenting vote.

The fare increases will go to pay for new buses and other operational costs, including the increasing cost of gas.

"(Without the increase) we're dangerously close to subsidizing this with the general fund," Public Works Director Richard Prima said.

"The other option is to cut back on service."

One speaker, representing her church and mobile home park, said the 50 cent increase will force some riders to go without a meal.

Council at a glance

In other action Wednesday, the Lodi City Council:
• Allocated up to $1 million for standby power improvements to the city's wastewater treatment plant.
• Voted 3-2 to install a lighted crosswalk at Lockeford and Calaveras streets at a cost up to $29,000. Council members John Beckman and Susan Hitchcock voted against it for fear of setting a precedent for future lighted crosswalks.
• Approved the city's first traffic circle. It will be located at Ravenwood and Cherrywood ways.
• Recognized Firefighter Geremy Quaglia for his lifesaving actions during a recent abalone diving expedition with fellow firefighters Aimee Dalrymple, Rick Gerlack and Pete Iturraran. Each received a plaque, while Quaglia was honored with a medal of honor for meritous service.
The group also received a standing ovation from the audience members which included a large contingent of Lodi firefighters, spouses and even children.
• Held a public hearing to consider the Planning Commission's recommendation to certify the Environmental Impact Report and unanimously approved the city's 2003-09 Housing Element after an hour-plus discussion.
• Delayed until next meeting the Impact Mitigation Fee Program annual report for fiscal year 2003-04.
• Appointed Mayor Larry Hansen to serve on the San Joaquin Council of Governments' Regional Transportation Impact Fee Policy Committee.
• Posted for a vacancy on the Senior Citizens Commission.
• Discussed in closed session several lawsuits with Stockton related to that city's proposed sphere of influence plan. No action was taken, according to City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer.
By 11:15 p.m., council members had not yet started a discussion on the status of the skatepark. It is currently closed due to liability insurance issues.

"A 20-cent increase could be livable," said Sheryl Marquardt.

Councilman Keith Land agreed with Hansen, calling the hikes "too drastic." He suggested instead the fares be increased slowly on an annual basis.

Other changes on the city's fixed-route system include:

• Reducing the number of free children riders under 5 from four to two, and changing the 31-day pass to a true month-to-month pass. If a passenger, for example, bought a pass in the middle of October, it would only be good through the end of October, Fink explained.

• The pass price will go from $20 to $35, per month, for the general public and $10 to $17.50 for all others, but those who ride daily will receive every Friday and weekends free.

• One-time use tickets for future riders will also be offered without an expiration date. Transfers between systems will remain free.

For Dial-A-Ride riders:

• The existing general public fare will be raised from $2 to $5 each way to discourage students or able-bodied riders from using the Dial-A-Ride service on a daily basis (unless the rider is an attendant).

• Seniors and disabled will pay an extra 50 cents under the increase. The new fare will be $1.50 each way, although a discounted ticket book will be offered in the future.

• And, a surcharge for riders outside city limits currently paying 50 cents will pay an additional 50 cents on top of their regular fare.

Hansen is concerned that providing service outside Lodi will stretch the city's system, even asking if it is mandated by a new money-sharing agreement with Galt.

"No one has told us we have to (provide that service)," Prima said. "We're not sure it is mandated."

When comparing Lodi to other cities, fares vary greatly. In a comparison performed by city staff earlier this month, the most expensive fixed-route fare for the general public was the Monterey-Salinas Transit District at $1.75 per rider.

At 75 cents, the City of Lincoln and the Riverbank-Oakdale Transit District are the cheapest, while the lowest senior/disabled rate is 40 cents for Livermore-Amador Transit and Modesto Transit districts.

"There's still three of them lower than where we will be," Prima said regarding the increase.

Contact reporter Jennifer Pearson Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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