TransLink has applied to raise the price of transit fares for buses and trains in the Metro Vancouver area, the first increase in nearly two years.

Under the proposal, a one-zone fare would rise 25 cents and two- and three-zone fares would rise 50 cents.

Books of 10 tickets would rise as much as $5 each, and monthly transit passes would increase between $5.50 and $19.

Changes would also be made to West Coast Express fares and employee pass programs.

The proposed increases still require the approval of the TransLink Commission and would not come into effect until 2013.

TransLinks says the increase is part of a plan to increase fuel and parking taxes to pay for a $150-million annual operating deficit. The fare increase would generate an extra $48 million per year for TransLink, or about 2.9 per cent of its revenue.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom think's it's reasonable.

"The reality is with the amount of additional projects that has to be dealt with in the Lower Mainland for enhanced transit I think we're going to have to look at a number of tools in order to be able to fund all of these," said Lekstrom.

But NDP critic Harry Bains said the increases were unnecessary because he believes the carbon tax could be used to fund transit improvements.

Looking for efficiencies

TransLink Commissioner Martin Crilly says the independent commission will be looking at TransLink's finances before approving the fare increase.

Crilly said he would also seek the public's input on the issue.

"Is it reasonable to expect TransLink to manage without some or all the fare increases it seeks, without making cutbacks in planned services?" Crilly said in a statement released Tuesday.

"In addressing that crucial question, we are probing for evidence that TransLink could save money by operating more efficiently, and we especially welcome input in that respect."

Comments can be emailed to comments [at] translinkcommission.org or posted on the Facebook page of the TransLink Commission until Feb. 15.

TransLink last raised its cash fares in January 2008, while FareSaver books and monthly fare cards were last raised in April 2010.

The TransLink Commissioner is the independent regulator of TransLink and is responsible for regulating short-term fares.