The Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors is scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday on whether to increase bus fares as much as 33 percent.

OCTA officials say they need to hike the fare to qualify for revenue from the Transportation Development Act (TDA) one-fourth cent sales tax. The authority needs to recoup at least 20 percent of its operating costs from customers to receive the revenue, according to a staff report.

The hike is part of a larger plan to increase fares every four years to remain eligible for the TDA revenue, the report states. OCTA previously raised bus fares in 2009 and 2005.

Jane Reifer, chairwoman of the Transit Advocates of Orange County, said OCTA officials need to consider assistance plans for low-income riders before approving a fare increase.

“We think it’s going to be really rough on a lot of the bus riders, so we’re hoping OCTA along with the fare increase can put together some kind of assistance for those who would be most hurt by it,” Reifer said.

A recent customer survey found that 73 percent of bus riders have incomes of $20,000 or less, Reifer said.

Among Reifer’s proposals is a voucher program for people who qualify based on income. A nonprofit organization funded by OCTA and other rider assistance groups would administer the program, Reifer said.

“It would be a compelling program,” Reifer said. “Just as people give money for food, for housing, they would be giving money for people to be getting to work for a year.”

The size of increases may also be adjusted. OCTA officials have proposed a 25-percent across-the-board increase, but that increase doesn’t equal amounts that can be collected on a bus, according to the staff report. Directors instead will consider adjusting those fares — either higher or lower — to result in an amount that can be collected.

For example, directors will consider raising a $1.50 bus fare to either $1.75 – a 17-percent increase – or $2.00 – a 33-percent increase. The staff report recommends that higher increase.

OCTA directors are to consider approving the fare increases at the Nov. 26 board meeting.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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