Santa Cruz Metro considers Highway 17 fare increase

The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District board voted in favor of a fare increase on the popular Highway 17 service to “maintain an optimal farebox recovery ratio.” Most fares will increase 25%. A public hearing and second vote is required before the fare increase, scheduled for June 10, takes place.

Big sharrow

The current fares and proposed increases for the 30 mile trip between San Jose and Santa Cruz, California.

  • One Way: $4.00 to $5.00
  • Day Pass: $8.00 to $10.00
  • Discount Fare (for elderly and disabled): $2.00 to $2.50
  • Monthly Pass: $90 to $113

What you can do

  • Attend the public hearing at 9 AM on Friday, March 26, 2010 at the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers, 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz, CA.
  • Submit written comments to the Santa Cruz Metro board by addressing a letter to the Metro Board of Supervisors and mailing it to Santa Cruz METRO, 110 Vernon Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
  • Contact your Metro Board representative directly. Board members are appointed by the various stakeholders in the Metro service area. If you live in Santa Cruz, contact one of the city of Santa Cruz appointees. Watsonville residents should contact one of the two Watsonville board members; Capitola is represented by Ron Graves; Scotts Valley by Dene Bustichi; USCS by Donna Blizter. County residents outside of these municipalities can contact a county representative. See SCMTD Board page to identify the board members, then look up their names to find contact information. I have Dene Bustichi’s email address, for example, and I’ve found he’s really good at responding to my concerns and questions. Many email addresses and phone numbers are available at the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission roster page.

Talking points

If you are opposed to the fare increases, here are some talking points to consider.

  • The proposed 25% increases are more than double the 10% change in the Consumer Price Index since 2005, when the current fares were established. This fare increase is more than double the inflation rate for the same five year period.
  • The stated aim of the fare increase is to “maintain an optimal farebox recovery ratio.” Santa Cruz Metro staff describe the 80% farebox recovery on Hwy 17 as “staggering” in their reports to SC Metro board. TThis is roughly three times the fare recovery for the entire Metro system, and nearly seven times the VTA farebox recovery of 12%. BART and Caltrain, which are acknowledged to have among the highest farebox recovery rates in the nation, are at 40% to 45%. Farebox recovery is already optimal.
  • Increasing the fare will reduce the number of passengers on the Hwy 17 bus. If this 25% increase reduces the number of passengers by 10%, that’s 500 more trips on Highway 17 each week, resulting in an additional 100 tons of CO2 emissions generated by those trips. Fare increase = fewer passengers = more single driver trips on Highway 17 = more congestion, more accidents and more pollution.


I ride the Highway 17 service daily, but I’m actually of two minds about this proposed increase! I list the reasons to favor this fare increase below, but I’m really interested in why these reasons aren’t as important.

  • The service is very popular. Between 900 and 1000 people ride this bus each weekday. It can be argued that raising the price is a natural, market response to the high demand on this service.
  • VTA and Santa Cruz Metro each contribute about $13,000 per month to the Highway 17 operating expenses. If fares are raised, this subsidy can be cut or maybe even eliminated, freeing the funds for other uses. $13K is probably VTA’s monthly paperclip budget, but the much smaller Santa Cruz transit agency seems better able to make a little cash go a long way.

One Comment

  1. I use the Highway 17 daily too, and I am very much in favor of this fare increase… A ride on Hwy 17 still represents an awesome deal, considering fuel prices, and considering the cost of say Caltrain or BART – especially the day passes and monthly passes, since you can ride the entire VTA system (barring express buses) AND the SC metro system with the Highway 17 pass! Also, my understanding from talking to riders who've been taking the bus for 5+ years is that the fare hasn't increased since forever (since 2005, I guess)

    Bay Area Transit is struggling, they NEED the money. This is a small price to pay in order to help sustain transit in these troubled times. And I think raising Hwy 17 fares is a much better thing to do than raise fares on regular VTA or SC metro rides.

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