Public Hearing Information
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Proposed Fares are Listed Below:
FY2016 Proposed Fare Increase
The process to develop the proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 began back in June of 2014, a full 13 months prior to the effective start date of July 1, 2015. The VRE Operations Board was presented with a set of key issues to apply to the development of the FY 2016 budget. Those key issues included:
- Level of service: Some trains are at or over 100% and the addition of the Spotsylvania station and parking facility will result in increased ridership
- Maintenance of VRE assets: Federal formula funds dedicated to maintaining transit assets in a “state of good repair” are expected to provide the ongoing capital costs of maintaining VRE assets over their life cycle
- Contract renewal with Amtrak: VRE’s current contract with Amtrak expires on June 30, 2015
- Capital improvements to support the VRE System Plan: Capital improvements needed to meet the expected demand for VRE service and to increase railroad infrastructure capacity in the VRE service territory require the identification and commitment of funds beyond those currently available to VRE
- Capital reserve: VRE needs to develop a target level for the capital reserve
- VRE staffing and office space: VRE needs the staff resources necessary to operate and administer the commuter rail system safely, efficiently and in compliance with all federal and state requirements
- Jurisdictional subsidy: The VRE service must be supported within the confines of jurisdictional budget constraints
VRE staff developed a budget based on those key issues and presented it to the Operations Board in September 2014. The budget was then forwarded to the commissions (PRTC and NVTC) which gave approval to forward the budget to all of the local jurisdictions.
Beginning in September 2014, the local jurisdictions, represented by the CAO Task Force, a group of financial representatives from each jurisdiction, worked with VRE staff providing feedback and recommendations for the budget. The final proposed budget, including the CAO Task Force recommendations, was then presented to the VRE Operations Board in December 2014.
The final proposed budget included the following:
- Estimates average daily ridership of 19,300
- Funds an additional Fredericksburg line train for a full year
- Scheduled to begin service summer 2015
- Recommends 4% fare increase
- Maintains level jurisdictional subsidy of $16.4M
- Spotsylvania station scheduled to open summer 2015
- Funds high priority capital improvements, such as nine additional railcars
The budget was then submitted to the commissions for approval by the local jurisdictions in January 2014, seven months after the process began.
The budget process is very long and requires estimates to be made in many areas of the operation a full year before the budget is scheduled to take effect.
Because the proposed budget includes a fare increase, VRE has begun a period to allow for public comment through the mail, online, and through a series of public hearings giving riders or any other interested parties the ability to voice their opinion before the proposed budget is adopted.
One of the questions that we have received through the public comments is "Why is there a need for a 4% fare increase, when economic conditions are already straining the riders' resources?"
There are several primary reasons for the recommended fare increase. VRE faces revenue reductions and contractual cost increases based on either fixed escalation rates or indexed rates based on CPI adjustments. As an example, track access for the three host railroads, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Amtrak account for an additional $1.1 million in costs. Positive train control, which is required by the Federal Railroad Administration, has been budgeted at $775k per year in operating costs; a new expense for FY 2016. On the revenue side of the ledger, state operating funding has decreased by 10% (over $1 million). The jurisdictions have their own budget constraints, so the subsidy remained level at $16.4 million. To help close this gap, the proposal includes a 4% fare increase, which is budgeted to generate an additional $900k.