Andrea Anderson, who rides the MTA bus at least four times a week, says a nickel increase in bus fares is not excessive. However, the increase might mean one less trip a week.
"When you're on a fixed income, you have to budget your money so that there is a tomorrow. You try to stretch out the money as much as possible," said Anderson, 72. "If you have four rides a week, that's 20 cents extra you have to pay."
Anderson, who lives in the Oliver section of East Baltimore, was one of more than 140 senior and disabled citizens who gathered at the War Memorial building yesterday for a hearing on the proposed fare increase by the Mass Transit Administration.
Anderson said lower bus rates enable her to lead a "somewhat normal life in my older years. Makes me feel more a part of the city, the community."
The proposed increases, which would go into effect March 3 if approved, would raise the price of a bus ride from $1 to $1.10 for most riders. Student fares would rise from 70 to 75 cents. Seniors and disabled citizens would pay 40 cents instead of 35 cents.
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said the increases, especially those proposed for seniors and the disabled, would be a heavy burden, particularly for people who are unemployed or on a fixed income.
"This is a hardship. It is also an injustice," Clarke said. "Seniors and handicapped face [an increase] of 14 percent compared to an average increase of 7 percent."
"A nickel doesn't sound like much. It doesn't go far. But in the fixed income, prescription-intensive, mobility-limited life of Baltimore's retirees and handicapped, even a nickel puts us in a pickle."
MTA officials said the cost of monthly passes -- not available to either seniors or the disabled -- will not increase, nor will costs for zone changes, express service or premium service.
Helen Dale, an MTA spokeswoman, said the increase -- the first in 15 months -- is a result of escalating diesel fuel costs. She said the MTA is required to recover at least 50 percent of its operating expenses from the fare box.
The MTA already has lower rates than those mandated by federal law, Dale said. Federal law requires that all senior and disabled citizens be given a 50 percent discount during non-peak hours.
"The MTA gives a 66 percent discount to seniors all of the time with no restrictions," Dale said.
About 300,000 people ride MTA buses daily, 7.5 percent of them seniors or disabled. About 40 percent of the buses are equipped for the disabled, Dale said.
Many seniors and disabled believe an increase is unwarranted because not all of the buses are equipped for the handicapped.