By Joe Linton, March 31, 2014
Citing “disruptive behavior,” uniformed officers removed two people from
last Saturday’s Metro fare increase hearing. photo: Joe
On Saturday, Metro held a public hearing on proposed changes to its
fare policy. Metro is proposing to raise its $1.50 base transit fare to
$1.75 starting September 2014. From there, it would be raised again to
$2.00 in 2017, and to $2.25 in 2020. This would include a 90-minute free
transfer, but only when the fare is paid using a TAP card.
Metro’s passes would go up similarly. Day passes, currently $5, would
cost $7/$8/$9. , Weekly passes, currently $20, would cost $25/$30/$32.
Monthly passes, currently $75, would cost $100, then, combined with EZ
pass, $120/$135. The Metro proposal includes two options: a straight-up
increase, or an increase that splits the increase into two categories: a
more expensive peak-commuter-hour fare and a cheaper off-peak fare. More fare increase proposal details at the Metro website.
As one might expect, the hearing was a heated one.
Security was higher than usual. In
addition to uniformed armed officers and police dogs, attendees had to
pass through a metal detector and allow officers to search bags. The
board room was full by the time the 9:30 a.m. meeting started, with late
arrivals shunted to the Metro cafeteria to watch proceedings on
For the most part, public commenters, from youth to seniors, urged
Metro not to raise fares, primarily for personal economic reasons. One
student’s summed it up the feelings of many commenters: “I count on the
buses, please don’t gouge us.”
Many groups expressed opposition, but the most prominent among them
was the Bus Riders Union. BRU head Eric Mann called on Metro directors
to reject the proposed increase, and to enact an immediate 10 percent
reduction in fares. Mann also called for an independent audit of Metro
finances to determine where past bond measure funding may have been
inappropriately redirected to rail construction.
A few individuals and organizations, primarily those interested in
seeing expanding Metro rail service, testified in favor of reasonable
fare increases, but requested some modifications to the staff’s
proposal. These modifications included increasing the transfer window to
two hours, making TAP cards more useful, and increasing other Metro
revenue from advertising, parking, etc to offset the fare increase.
Throughout the proceedings, Metro Board
Chair Diane DuBois was very curt, admonishing the crowd not to applaud,
frequently cutting off speakers in mid-sentence and speaking over them
until they relented.
As the meeting wore on, a handful of speakers rebuffed the chair and
finished their statements. When one speaker ignored the chair and spoke
at length, DuBois threatened to have him removed for disruptive
behavior. As multiple uniformed guards approached the speaker, he
retreated to a seat. Other attendees surrounded the speaker to block
approaching guards. The ensuing confrontation resulted in the speaker
and another individual being removed from the meeting. See video of the incident here. The L.A. Times reported that the two were arrested “on suspicion of disturbing the peace.”
After public comment ended, a number of Metro board members
questioned Metro staff. Supervisor Gloria Molina questioned some of the
staff report statistics, and asked whether the fare increase proposal
might be “discriminatory.” She concluded requesting further analysis.
Los Angeles city councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, both
appointed to the Board by Mayor Eric Garcetti, expressed the need for
Metro to more fully explore other measures to cut costs and raise
revenues. Two other Metro Board Members, County Supervisors Don Knabe
and Mike Antonovich were not present at the hearing.
The fare increase proposal is expected to be voted on at the May 22,
2014, Metro board meeting. If approved, new fares would go into effect
September 1st, 2014.