Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is warning that they faces a $36-million operating budget shortfall by 2016, which could grow to $225 million in the next decade without a substantial fare increase.
Metro is suggesting two main fare increases First would raise $1.50 bus and rail fare to $1.75 in September, $2 in four years and $2.25 in 2021. Fares for seniors/disabled would double to $1.10. A $5 day pass would increase to $9.
The alternative increases would mean fares would remain at $1.50 during non-peak hours. However, during rush hour, fares would go up to $2.25 in September and would eventually more than double to $3.25 in 2021. A day pass would increase to $13 in 2021.
According to Metro 59% of bus riders are Latino and 20% are black, with average household income of $16,250 which is about one-third the countywide average. The higher costs will disproportionately affect minorities which make up almost 80% of Metro riders and could possibly raise some civil rights concerns.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, is on the Metro board, said in an interview he shares the "economic justice concerns" expressed by riders'and their advocates. However he said proposed changes in transfers would make things easier for riders. Currently you must pay each time you board, but the new system would allow unlimited transfers for 90 minutes. He said the current system penalizes riders based "on where you are, where you live, where you study."
Since 1995, Metro has raised fares three times, most recently in 2010, but they maintains that they have some of the cheapest fares in the nation. Most riders will tell you that they also have some of the worst delays, trains on the Blue Line constantly breakdown leaving riders stuck with no other options, not to mention public safety issues.
Speaking about the $2 billion a year in Los Angeles County sales tax collections earmarked for construction and operation of the bus and rail system, Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair of the riders' union said "Public transit riders have already paid for the system before even getting on the bus," she also stated that Metro could stop building lite-rail services and work harder to make their bus system better. "That would put them in the black right away,"
Metro needs to fully understand who their riders are and fully recognize that this is not the Bay Area, New York or DC where everyone uses public transportation, this is Los Angeles and mostly poor people ride Metro.
Metro, City leaders and Barbara Lott-Holland need to fully understand that walking away from lite-rail and our subway system is not an option. We already did that and look where that landed us.
Once upon a time, in a not so distant past the powers that be decided that Los Angeles would no longer invest in public transportation. Instead they would make Los Angeles about the automobile. In fact department stores like Bullock's Wilshire and Saks Fifth Avenue catered to the automobile, leaving behind the cites residents who depended on public transportation like the Red Car.
Los Angeles is a world class city that deserves a world class transportation system (buses, lite-rail, street cars and subways) that is efficient, safe, reliable, and unmatched by any other. However this system should not be built on the backs of the poor and should not exclude them from being able to use it because of cost. It's called public transportation for a reason.....the public, every member of the public, should be able to access it.