On Wednesday the Executive Committee of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) voted to postpone the fare increase process at Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). While this probably kills a fare increase in 2010, the decision still needs to be ratified by the full Commission at it's July 22 meeting. The rationale given for the decision was that HRT wanted to explore making greater efficiencies first.
The fundamental problem is that the decision assumes enough can be found in efficiencies to meet both current budgetary needs and more Operator compensation in a new contract with the union. Staff has already documented HRT's structural financial problems, and it appeared the Commission was leaning towards raising fares to $2.
The issue I haven't heard addressed in the context of the fare review is the Operators' union contract, which expired July 1. Last time it went to arbitration, and the Operators were awarded a 3% raise each year for three years.
Does anyone seriously believe enough in efficiencies can be found to cover both the structural budgetary problems and larger Operator compensation? If not, why does the fare increase process keep getting pushed back? First the increase was to be on July 1, then November 1. The Executive Committee action would push any increase into 2011. This thing is running later than the Route 15 at rush hour!
Theoretically, the Commission could reject the Executive Committee recommendation and proceed with the fare increase process on schedule. However, in all the TDCHR meetings I've been to, I've never seen a committee request voted down. (Occasionally amended or sent back to committee.)
While Wednesday's vote may have been politically expedient, it makes little fiscal sense. The more prudent course would be to continue the fare increase process on schedule while pursuing greater efficiencies on a parallel track.