TriMet sent out a press release this afternoon detailing its $434 million budget for the next fiscal year, and it had a big headline (actually a couple of them): The transit agency—for the first time in three years, and even after losing a $125 million bond vote last fall—isn't planning any more service cuts. In fact, it's adding limited runs on a handful of bus lines and boosting service on the MAX Blue Line.

Officials even plan to buy new buses—55 in the coming year (helped by grant money), and then 40 a year after that.

So... good news for riders? Sort of. It's just that it comes with a cost: more fare increases. And it also assumes union approval of TriMet's proposed revision of healthcare costs—even though talks remain at an impasse.

General fares are slated to rise by another five cents. That'd bring a two-zone ticket up to $2.10. And monthly passes will go up $4. LIFT trips for disabled and elderly travelers also will increase, by 40 cents, to $2.25 each way. Monthly LIFT passes, meanwhile, are going away altogether. (In a town where the average family pays more for transportation than housing, that's a big deal.)

After the jump, TriMet's details.

• Restore a small amount of bus and MAX service to reduce overcrowding and maintain schedule reliability. Ten bus lines will have some additional trips added to relieve overcrowding: Lines 4, 9, 12, 14, 35, 44, 52, 75, 78 and 94; during evening rush hour, there will be additional Blue Line MAX trips.

• Restart annual bus procurement program, purchasing 55 buses this year primarily with grant funds, and 40 each subsequent year, funded through debt service.

• Propose a five cent fare increase and a $4 increase for monthly passes for adult fares; all other fixed route cash fares remain unchanged. A $1 increase in youth monthly passes is also proposed. The increase helps offset the additional cost of providing service and rising diesel prices, as well as helps provide some service restoration to respond to overcrowding.

• Propose a 40 cent increase for LIFT trips, as well as discontinuing the monthly pass. TriMet LIFT fares are one of the lowest among peer agencies. Current fare is $1.85 for one way trip; cost to TriMet is $29. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows fares to be a maximum of twice the cost of a regular base fare of $4.10. TriMet is proposing to increase the LIFT cash fare over the next 3 years, bringing it to $3. Salem and Eugene currently charge $3 for ADA paratransit trips.

• Increase the budget for diesel, from the FY11 budget of $2.42 a gallon to FY12 at $3.31. TriMet does not pay taxes on fuel, so the price is lower than what consumers pay at the gas pump. TriMet is the largest diesel user in the state, buying about 6.5 million gallons annually. For every 15 cent increase in diesel prices, it adds $1 million in increased expense.

• Fund safety initiatives, including annual operator recertification.

• The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project continues to move forward through Final Design. No TriMet funds are going toward the project until FY2013. Funds from the Oregon lottery backed bonds, ODOT Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant and Metro MTIP bond proceeds are funding Final Design.

State law requires TriMet to balance its budget. The FY2012 budget assumes that a new Working and Wage Agreement with the ATU has benefits more in line with peer agencies, and consistent with those contained in TriMet’s July 2010 Final Offer.

Fare increase process
The first reading of the five cent fare increase proposal will be at the April 27 board meeting. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Portland Building, 1120 SW 5th Avenue. The board is expected to vote on the proposal at its May 25 board meeting.

The first reading of the LIFT fare proposal will be at the May 25 board meeting, with a vote scheduled for June 22.

If approved, the fare changes would take effect September 1, 2011.