Fare Policy Regarding Regular and/or Inflation-related ("Programmed") Price Increases

Spock, L.
Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, November

Historically, transit agencies have implemented fare increases largely on an "as needed" basis. In practice, this has resulted in relatively infrequent changes in fares which are often large in magnitude by virtue of the need to "catch up" on expenses since the previous fare change. This study examines an alternative approach to fare policy - "programmed fare increases" to keep up with expenses on a pre-determined regular basis. This report documents and synthesizes the experience of twelve transit agencies with programmed fare increases. Interestingly, many of the agencies did not know of each other's experience with similar fare policies prior to this study. While still the exception rather than the rule, the research shows that programmed fare increases can be viable across a range of transit agency sizes, organization types, and funding structures. Whatever their individual differences in policy and practice, the experiences of the agencies studied suggest the importance of clearly communicating the need for regular fare increases to transit customers in the context of agencies' efforts to maintain service, constrain costs, and address customer needs and concerns. Collectively, the limited but nonetheless significant experience of the case study agencies represented in this report sets a precedent for the practice of programmed fare increases. This report provides a resource for transit agencies' consideration of adopting programmed fare increases by documenting the actual experience and lessons learned by peer agencies to date.