METRO rolls out 2008 service "improvements," fare increases

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KHOU-11’s Wendell Edwards reports that a Houston non-profit isn’t too pleased with planned fare changes:

At the Star of Hope, caseworkers hand out small tokens to help some clients get to appointments and job interviews.

The tokens, worth a dollar each, are used for Metro fares.

“It will help them get on the bus to get them to their necessary destination,” Star of Hope case worker Ural Williams said.But under new plans, Metro will change the system for charities.

In the past, they could purchase the tokens from Metro at a discount. But now the dollar tokens will become a thing of the past, replaced by $5 vouchers.

Williams says that’s a bit much for charities to just give away.

“They can abuse the system with it. They could sell it or it could become a temptation,” he said.

[snip]

The changes aren’t scheduled to take place until the end of March. The charities are hoping they still have enough time to convince Metro to change the plan.

A Metro spokeswoman said officials are sympathetic to the problem.

“We will be talking with these agencies to develop an alternative that best serves both our needs,” she said in a statement.

Let’s hope so. Because the regional mobility organization frequently seems less concerned about the people who most need its services than about affluent types who want light-rail to be like a cheap, heavily subsidized “world-class” taxi that will take them right where they want to go (and about affluent developers, architects, consultants, planners, and others who hope to secure business from METRO).

The big news to start the year, of course, is that METRO has finally rolled out the Q Card (and associated fare increases) after weeks months years of inexplicable delays. Cory Crow gave that about the best treatment we’ve seen in the local blogosphere, and it’s certainly a more skeptical treatment than one is likely to find among the local METRO cheerleaders at the city’s big daily newspaper.

Speaking of skepticism, we meant to post about this Free Press Houston story on METRO that we found weeks ago via the B.S. Houston Arts Blog, but just never got around to it. While the story is a bit lacking in terms of editing (it comes from a tiny alt-weekly after all), the author’s willingness to analyze METRO instead of simply regurgitating the organization’s press releases and attacks on critics is refreshing. Perhaps some of the city’s other print journalists will follow that lead in 2008!

RELATED COVERAGE: METRO rolls out new fare system (KPRC-2 News), METRO bus riders learning the ‘Q’ lingo (KHOU-11 News).


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