Taking the bus and calling for Dial-a-Ride soon will be more expensive, despite the effort of Tempe officials.
The board of directors at Valley Metro, which administers the region's bus system, voted Thursday to start a process likely to end in fare hikes.
Exactly how much more fares will cost won't be known until after a series of public meetings, to be held in early 2009, and the board's final vote for approval in February.
New ticket prices then would go into effect, at the latest, in July.
But a consultant's presentation to the board laid out a myriad of possibilities, the first being increases phased in over two years.
Under this proposal, by July 2010 the cost of a base fare, good for a single local boarding with no transit slip, would be $1.75 - up from its current price by 25 cents a year.
Other options under study are to raise the base fare even higher, to $2 or $2.25.
The only board member voting against the authorization of public hearings was Tempe Vice Mayor Shanna Ellis.
Her approval of Valley Metro's fare hike of December 2007, Ellis said, came under the belief the agency would be waiting several years before raising ticket prices again. She also said increased fares would hit low-income families the hardest.
Also speaking against the hike was Catherine Mayorga, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce's vice president for public affairs. She said the current economic slump was not the time to be making mass transit less affordable.
The board, in justifying the increase, said Valley Metro's primary source of funding - sales tax revenue - is slumping. That hinders the agency in meeting its goal of earning back 25 percent of its operating expenses through fares.
Also, the consultant from Booz Allen Hamilton told the board that Valley Metro charges far less than other cities' transit agencies.
A comparison with 11 other cities showed the average cost for their base fare was $1.84.
For information, visit Valley Metro's Web site at www.valleymetro.org/bus/fare_increases.
In other action, the board:
Voted unanimously to approve four contracts, worth more than $8 million, for establishing Mesa Main Street Bus Rapid Transit and constructing the Superstition Springs Mall Transit Center. This 15-mile line will connect the mall's Park-and-Ride lot with the Sycamore Street transit center west of downtown.
The project's total budget is $15.5 million.
Acknowledged the effort of Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, a director on the board of Metro light rail, to have that agency merge with Valley Metro. The latter board's response on Thursday was a unanimous vote to have the chief executives of Valley Metro and Metro come together for a presentation to both boards about the advantages and disadvantages of a merger.
Hallman has said combining the two agencies would save about $2 million.