Public Hearing on Proposed Metro Fare Restructuring Plan

by Rick Jager/Marc Littman
February 5, 2014 • 266 views

Los Angeles

In an effort to be more customer friendly while addressing a quickly growing operating deficit the Metro Board of Directors today voted to set a public hearing on proposed fare restructuring for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 29 at Metro headquarters, One Gateway Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.
The public will be asked for input on two fare restructuring options. Both would eliminate the cost of transferring from one bus or train to another — something that has been requested by many Metro customers. Both options also would raise fares gradually over the next eight years and help avoid a budget deficit that could occur as soon as 2016 if fares are not revised. Current Metro fares cover just 26 percent of the cost of operating the buses and trains and Metro faces an unsustainable operating deficit of $36.8 million in two years, growing to $225 million in ten years unless changes are made. Metro has raised fares only three times during the past 18 years and has among the lowest fares of major transit agencies in the United States.
Currently, the Agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan assumes a 33 percent recovery rate to meet funding commitments. Since 1995, the local consumer price index has increased 46 percent while Metro’s average fares have increased only 17 percent. In addition, over the years Metro has maintained the lowest fare per boarding (0.70 cents), when compared with other similar transit agencies.
The first fare restructuring option would raise the base fare from the current $1.50 to $1.75 for the next four years, with an eventual rise during the eight-year period to $2.25. (See chart below for details.) The second would keep the base fare at $1.50 during off-peak hours and raise it to $2.25 during peak hours for the next four years, eventually raising it to $3.25 during peak hours. [Off-peak hours are defined as weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and all day on weekends and Federal holidays.]
For comparison, San Francisco Muni currently charges $2; Chicago CTA charges $2 for buses and $2.25 for trains; Portland TriMet is $2.50, Washington D.C. Metro is $1.60 for buses and $2.10 for peak-hour rail travel and the New York City subway fare is $2.50. All of those agencies allow for free transfers.
Because of the transfer policy, Metro customers have complained that they must pay full fare every time they switch from one train or bus to another. Metro customer surveys indicate more than half of its riders transfer to reach their destinations and the transfer policy effectively punishes those who must transfer. If adopted a no-transfer feature would make it possible for riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for a single fare. This would allow not just for one-fare travel to a single location but also for multiple stops to, for example, the supermarket or drug store and home again on a single ticket, if all travel occurs within 90 minutes. It’s this kind of flexibility that riders have also cited in requests for transfer elimination.
Also, under the proposed new fare structures, the cost of daily, weekly and monthly passes will rise because pass holders tend to be the heaviest users of the system. Another change would be the eventual elimination of the currently monthly pass in favor of the EZ pass that would allow for unlimited travel on Metro and other bus systems throughout Los Angeles County.
No changes can occur before the Metro Board votes to approve them. The first possible opportunity for this will be in May. The earliest date new fares could take effect is Sept. 1.
Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the upcoming public hearing and provide testimony. There will also be additional fare forums held at the regularly scheduled Service Council meeting during the month of March. Persons unable to attend the public hearing or the fare forums may submit a written testimony postmarked through March 29. Correspondence should be addressed to:
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2932
Attn: Michele Jackson

Comments may also be submitted electronically to publichearing@metro.net.

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