City Council approves StarTran fare hike

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Monday the Lincoln City Council approved a StarTran fare increase for low-income and handicap passengers.

Story and photos by Brandi Susnjar, NewsNetNebraska

The Lincoln City Council voted Monday to increase StarTran rates for some of its riders. In a six to one vote, the council increased monthly fares from $7.50 to $8 for low-income and HandiVan handicapped riders.  The increase adds an additional $14,000 a year to StarTran coffers that will be used to offset the costs of Saturday service. The fare increase did not come without debate.

“It is hard for people to understand how they don’t have $8 to ride a bus,” said Baetty Brasch, the Executive Director of the Center of People with Need.  “It means deciding between paying a bill, getting food or having transportation.”

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StarTran officials say four hours of Saturday service cost around $212,000 a year. StarTran will receive $50,000 in annual state funding a year, but that stills leaves an annual operating cost of $31,000 to fill. StarTran had hoped to fill the operating gap by increasing fares more. At one point, the council debated raising fares to $10 a month.

“We support the $8 increase, but not the $10 increase,” said Brasch.  “If they make the larger change, it should be done gradually.”

Brasch said that the Center of People in Need did a survey of the low income people in Lincoln.  The survey found 21 percent of low income people do not have proper transportation to get them to the places they need to be. Sixty-nine percent said they would ride StarTran if it was free.

“Just a little something to think about,” said Brasch.

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Audience members listen to the StarTran fare increase debate at Monday’s Lincoln City Council meeting.

Some believe StarTran and the Lincoln City Council could have done more to address the fare hike issue. Council member Doug Emery said they are trying to meet the number one concern: to continue Saturday transportation service.

“The council didn’t just come up with a number,” said Emery.

City council member Adam Hornung was the only member to vote against both proposed increases.  During open discussion on the topic, Hornung said he didn’t support any fare increase. “This is exactly the wrong group to do this too,” said Hornung.  “I don’t feel this is the way to solve StarTran’s number one problem.”

Councilwoman DiAnna Schimek sworn in

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DiAnna Schimek was sworn in Monday as Lincoln’s newest council member.

In other city council news, DiAnna Schimek was sworn in as the newest member of the Lincoln City Council. Schimek replaces  Jane Snyder who was forced to resign her council seat last month because of pancreatic cancer. Snyder died late last week after losing her cancer battle.

Schimek was nominated by four council members and is no stranger to politics.  She served on the Democratic National Committee and represented Lincoln in the State Legislature for 16 years. After being sworn in, Schimek received a standing ovation before returning to her council seat and her first of many council meetings was underway.

The Lincoln City Council meets every Monday at 3 p.m. in the City and County building.

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