Subsidizing public transit to reduce fares and thus increase ridership is commendable. However, the proposal by Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky to cut only rush-hour RTD bus fares by 35 cents--and only for rides originating within the Los Angeles city limits--seems misguided (Metro, May 5).
Handling rush-hour transit riders requires large fleets of buses, along with support facilities and personnel, most of which are underutilized the rest of the time. It is not uncommon to offer lower off-peak fares to encourage use outside of rush hours. Councilman Yaroslavsky's plan would have the opposite effect by encouraging peak-hour bus riding, possibly at the expense of off-peak bus patronage.
It is questionable whether a 35-cent fare reduction (from 85 cents to 50 cents) can lure a large number of drivers out of their cars and into crowded buses. If so, it is at least equally likely to encourage discretionary off-peak riders to reschedule their trips to the rush-hours to take advantage of the lower fares, adding to the crowding.
The fact that under Yaroslavsky's proposal the rush-hour fare reduction would apply only to riders boarding within Los Angeles could cause problems. Some bus routes cross various city boundaries. If funds are indeed available to subsidize transit services, it would seem far wiser to use those funds to improve RTD service.