The Vallejo City Council voted to raise bus and ferry fares this week, overcoming opposition from council members who argued the city shouldn’t raise prices for public transit even in the face of bankruptcy.
City administrators, including public works director Gary Leach and transportation superintendent Crystal Odum Ford, convinced the council to go along with fare hikes of up to 20% to close a projected $2.9 million budget deficit this year and a $4.2 million gap next year.
The San Francisco Bay-area city provides ferry service to downtown San Francisco, as well as intercity and local buses. In addition to fare hikes, Vallejo also eliminated bus service to some communities in Solano and Napa counties.
“The price of fuel is escalating at an alarming rate,” Ford said, adding that the city lost $1 million in state transit funding this year. “The transportation division has got to be self-sufficient, given the city’s finances.”
The City Council voted 4 to 2 to approve the fare hike. The council approved a bankruptcy filing May 6, but its lawyers have not yet filed the case.
Mayor Osby Davis said the council had no choice but to go along with the fare hike because it has no general fund revenue available to subsidize public transit.
Other council members said the fare hike would reduce Vallejo’s appeal to commuters who work in San Francisco, hurting its long-term economic prospects, and might not raise more revenue because higher fares would decrease ridership.
“I keep asking for some different ideas and options and I keep getting the same thing back, which is the fare increase,” said Stephanie Gomes, who championed the bankruptcy filing and opposed the fare hike. “Many other cities subsidize their public transportation systems — it benefits everybody.”
As an alternative to the fare increase, she proposed that the city ask voters to approve a transportation sales tax hike, charge for parking at its ferry terminal, and allow riders to take dogs on the ferry to increase ridership.