By Laura J. Nelson, May 20, 2014
Metro passengers add fares to their ticket cards at the Universal City
Red Line station. A proposal that the Metro board will consider Thursday
could raise fares as much as 117% over the next eight years.
Citing the financial strain of fare increases on low-income transit
riders, a group of Los Angeles County transportation official
drafted a plan that would temporarily halt a Metro proposal to raise
fares on the bus and rail system three times over the next eight years.
At the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board
meeting Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and two other Metro
directors will introduce a motion that would allow one fare increase
this summer, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by the Los
Angeles Times. Two subsequent increases
that would take effect in 2017 and 2020, as well as any increases to
student fares, would be put on hold until a panel of transportation
experts could assess Metro's financial situation.
The proposal, sponsored by Garcetti and Los Angeles County
Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas, says the Metro board
should be "satisfied that a range of options ... have been evaluated"
before scheduling three fare increases at once.
Metro's board of
directors will consider two options for fare increases, as well as the
new proposal, at their meeting in downtown Los Angeles.
Metro has said a fare increase is necessary
to close an expected $36-million gap in the agency's 2016 operating
budget. The agency's financial analysts say the deficit could grow to
$225 million over the next decade. Without higher fares, the agency has
said, Metro will consider laying off nearly 1,000 employees and cutting 1
million hours of bus and rail service in 2015.
Rider advocates have criticized Metro for
a policy that they say would disproportionately harm the county's
poorest residents. More than 80% of bus and rail riders are minorities,
and their average household income is less than $20,000, according to
Metro data. Metro's fares are some of the lowest of any major transit
system in the United States.
One proposal would raise the basic $1.50 bus and rail fare to $1.75
in September, to $2 in four years and $2.25 in 2021. Fares for seniors
and the disabled would double to $1.10.
Under an alternative
proposal, base fares would remain at $1.50 during non-peak hours. But
rush-hour fares would rise to $2.25 in September and more than double to
$3.25 in 2021. A $5 day pass would increase to $13 in 2021.
who buy daily, weekly and monthly passes would see the biggest increase
in price: The monthly unlimited pass, now $75, would be eliminated in
2018 and merged with a pass that allows unlimited rides on all Los
Angeles County bus systems. The price would eventually rise to either
$135 or $180.
Both proposals would modify the agency's transfer
policy, allowing passengers 90 minutes of unlimited rides. Currently,
passengers must pay a new fare every time they board a new bus or train.
motion by Garcetti, Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky asks for a panel made
up of representatives from the American Public Transportation Assn. and
officials from "similar, large transit authorities."
The panel would report back next year on a variety of revenue
options, including charging for parking at Metro stations and linking
the price of bus and rail fares to the Consumer Price Index. It would
study changing the fare structure for seven-day and 30-day passes.
proposed motion would create a Metro riders representative who would
"serve as an independent advocate to monitor and assess customer
service-related issues" and evaluate future fare-structuring ideas.
would also require agency officials to study ways to "decriminalize
youth fare evasion on Metro's system," including changes to diversion
policies or the California Penal Code.