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Riders aboard crowded MetroLink train

John McGee of Belleville (center) rides a packed MetroLink train on March 22, 2013, in St. Louis. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS   •   Metro riders will have a chance to weigh in on proposed increases to student, weekly and monthly passes in hearings that will begin in March.

Metro's Operations Committee this morning authorized the hearings for March and April.

The St. Louis-based transit agency is considering three fare options in an effort to raise an additional $2.24 million from the fare box. All would increase monthly transit pass to prices ranging from $78 to $80. A monthly pass now costs $72. Weekly passes and university semester passes also would cost more.

Two of the proposals would increase the one-way MetroLink cash fare to $2.50 from its current $2.25. One-way bus fares would remain unchanged at $2.

If approved, fare increases would take effect in July.

The agency said the proposed fares are not expected to significantly reduce ridership or result in a major financial hit to lower-income riders who depend on public transportation.

Transit agency staff said the aim is to increase fares in smaller increments than in the past. Because fares cover only 22 percent of the agency's operating expenses, taxpayers wind up paying the remainder, said Metro President and CEO John Nations.

Ken Leiser is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.