A proposal to change bus fares and how they are determined won approval of the Sunset Empire Transportation District board Tuesday.

The desire to simplify the fare structure and geographic zones on which the fares are based arose when the district staff began to revise bus schedules, which are scheduled to be released next month, said Cindy Howe, executive director.

Currently the district has three zones with three fare structures: Zone 1, encompassing Astoria, Warrenton to Perkins Road on U.S. Highway 101, with a standard fare of 75 cents (50 cents for seniors, the disabled and students); Zone 2, between Perkins Road and Bud's Campground in Gearhart, with a fare of $1.50 (or $1.25 for seniors); and Zone 3, south to Cannon Beach, with a fare of $2.25 (or $1.75 for seniors).

Residential use of the buses is limited in the existing middle zone, Howe said. She recommended a new structure having only two zones, with the new border at a weigh station near the Reed and Hertig Packing Co., 90266 U.S. 101.

The change raises the fare for Astoria-only riders by 25 cents, but lowers it for riders - particularly seniors - traveling between Astoria and Cannon Beach.

"The district has not had a fare increase since its formation in 1993," Howe added in her staff report.

The revision "will place the zone boundary in a spot that will not affect riders, and it will help the drivers as well" because they won't have to make as much change for fares.

In the new Zone 1, the standard fare will increase 25 cents to $1, while Zone 2 riders will see their fare decrease to $2. The fare will not change for seniors in Zone 1, and elsewhere it will decrease to $1.

A one-zone monthly pass will remain $15 and the cost of a two-zone pass will be reduced slightly from $48 to $45. An all-day pass will remain $5. Ticket books will be $20 for 25 ride tickets in Zone 1, (remaining $10 for seniors) and will stay at $18 for Zone 2.

Commissioners present - Robert Gannaway, Jack Harris, Charlotte Mendenhall, Victor Kee and John Meyer, voted unanimously in support of the zone and fare changes. The prompt agreement and sense of accord followed recently tumultuous times for the district leaders (see related story).

In other action Tuesday, the board:

• Appointed Commissioner Harris to serve on a technical advisory committee as part of a Community Transportation Association of America grant for the development of a marketing program for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration. The committee will work with a consultant during the project, and the grant provides the technical assistance at no extra cost to the district. Howe is searching for funds to ultimately implement the shuttle marketing plan that is developed;

• Appointed Commissioner Mendenhall to a committee to review proposals for the intermodal transportation center project;

• Postponed appointments to the district's budget committee in light of additional prospective volunteers;

• Discussed how the district's insurance policy is coordinated with the use of school buses and drivers during major events such as the annual Crab and Seafood Festival. Such activity is on weekends and does not interfere with the district's Dial-a-Ride or basic bus availability, Howe said. "It doesn't affect our regular service at all."

• Agreed to provide information to Seaside Chamber of Commerce and its executive director, Ken Meiser, about efforts involving transportation for cruise ship passengers;

• Noted that Howe will continue to make presentations to local service organizations about transportation efforts related to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial;

• Discussed how the district is not involved financially with efforts to bring passenger rail service to Astoria, other than with staff time to add a bus stop to the planned train depot.


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