The MTD board of directors adopted a new rate schedule Monday night that drew cheers from members of an advocacy group for the poor.

The board, whose meeting began in front of a packed house, mollified the advocates by lowering the amount of fare increases proposed by MTD staff in the categories that tend to be used most by the financially disadvantaged, including 10-day passes for k-12 students and seniors.

“We knew the bus fares were going to go up — they didn’t have any alternatives,” said Belen Seara, executive director of the PUEBLO Education Fund, a local advocacy group for the poor. “We were hoping to get the best deal, and actually, it was very good.”

All told, the rate hikes will generate about $1.46 million — about $200,000 less than the initial proposal would have yielded, and just shy of the bus provider’s projected shortfall of $1.5 million.

The new fares mean that, beginning Jan. 1, the cost for an adult single ride will jump to $1.75 from $1.25. The single-ride cost for seniors will increase to 85 cents from 60 cents.

The board also decided to raise the cost of bus fares 40 percent for students at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College. The SBCC rate hike was less than final because its contract with MTD requires voter approval by the students. 

Among the cost increases that came to the relief of PUEBLO was the price of a 10-ride pass for K-12 students, which increased to $8.25 from $7.50. MTD staff on Monday originally had proposed an increase to $10.

Seara said many of the families represented by her organization purchase the 10-ride passes. She said they tend to shy away from the 30-day passes, which make for a better deal in the long run, but require too much cash upfront for some families.

Another price increase that fell in line with her request was the 30-day pass for seniors, which will rise to $20 from $18. MTD staff had proposed an increase to $27, she said. In addition, Seara and PUEBLO were moderately pleased with the decision to increase the fare for adult 10-ride passes to $11.50 from $10. They were hoping for $11, but the final amount was lower than the originally proposed $12.50. 

MTD raised the amount of the proposed fare increases for commuters who use the Valley Express. Ten-day passes will jump to $50 from $35; the original proposal was for $45. Thirty-day passes will rise to $160 from $120; the initial plan called for raising it to $150.

As for SBCC, any fare increase of more than 20 percent requires a vote of approval by students, officials said. The college has a contract in place with MTD in which all students pay a bus fee, thereby reducing the cost of a student bus pass. If students vote against it, then those who would like to ride the bus would need to pay the regular rate.

If approved by students, semester-long passes would rise to $24.50 from $17.50. Summer passes would increase to $10.50 from $7.50.

MTD Assistant General Manager Jerry Estrada noted that “24.50 is the cost of half a tank of gas. That’s still a heck of a deal.”

Fares cover only about 40 percent of the agency’s operating budget. The rest comes from state sales taxes, federal taxes and local Measure D sales taxes. Those amounts have stayed the same even as operating costs have risen, MTD officials say.

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at

Rob Kuznia, Noozhawk Staff Writer

— Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at