City News

AGENDA: Cherriots considers lowering fares, plans for e-fare

Within the year, Salemites may hop on the bus and tap a preloaded card to pay their fare.

The electronic payment is part of a larger plan to make public transit more accessible and affordable in the capital city – with options that the Salem Area Mass Transit District Board is scheduled to discuss Thursday, Jan. 26.

The district, known as Cherriots, is accepting public comments before voting in its regional and 1X routes during its Feb. 23 meeting. If approved, the lower fares would begin March 1.

The regional routes serve outlying areas including Woodburn, Silverton, Independence and Dallas. The 1X route is an express between Salem and Wilsonville.

Cherriots plans to launch its electronic fare program in August, said spokeswoman Patricia Feeny.

To comment in-person at the board meeting, a sign-up sheet will be available at the start of the session. To comment via zoom, call the board clerk at (503) 588-2424 to make arrangements.

For written comment, email [email protected] Written testimony is due 5 p.m. on the day of the meeting, Jan. 26.

The meeting will be live streamed by Capital Community Media online and on channel 21 for Comcast users.

READ IT: AGENDA

The proposed fare changes, which would start in March, would lower fares and apply payment caps.

The changes aim to boost ridership through improving equity and accessibility, according to the staff report to the board.

The board will also discuss extending its Youth Zero fare program, which has allowed anyone under 18 to use transit for free since September. If approved, the ordinance would extend the pilot program through September 2023. 

The electronic fare system, called Umo, allows customers to pay through a smartphone app or contactless smart card. Umo is used by three transit agencies in the state, including in Eugene, according to a staff memo.

With e-fare, customers would load their accounts with funds to scan when boarding the bus. This would eliminate paying any fare in cash, though riders would still be able to use cash to load Umo cards at retailers or Cherriots Customer Service.

The board has proposed fare caps, with a set value of $3.20 per day or $45 a month for adult riders. When riders reach that value, all additional rides would be free.

The proposed fare changes would lower an adult regional ride from $2.25 to $1.60, a day pass from $4.50 to $3.25 and a month pass from $60 to $45.

The reduced adult regional fare, eligible to people with Medicare, people over 60 and people with disabilities, would lower from $1.50 to 80 cents per ride, from $3 to $1.50 for the day pass and from $30 to $22.50 for the month.

Route 1X adult rides would lower from $3 to $1.60, with reduced fare lowering from $1.50 to 80 cents, and add a $45 30-day pass or $22.50 reduced.

Cherriots also proposed a $90 monthly pass for LIFT, a direct ride service for people with disabilities. The pass would lower costs for those who ride 29 or more times, and those eligible could take unlimited bus rides. Individual LIFT ride fare will stay at $3.20.

Cherriots is forecasting a 10 to 20% increase in ridership following the changes, and anticipates more people from rural areas using the bus. 

The district expects to lose $90,000 in revenue per year with the reduced fares, which it intends to cover with state funding.

Cherriots assesses its rates every two years, and has not raised fares since 2015, according to the memo. It lowered youth fare in 2019, before making youth rides free in September 2022.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.

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