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Judge refuses to bar MTA rate hikes

Times Staff Writer

A judge Wednesday refused to grant a temporary restraining order to bar the MTA’s fare hikes for bus and rail service, making it likely they will take effect as scheduled Sunday.

“We’re quite pleased,” said Terry Matsumoto, treasurer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Lawyers for the MTA said the agency had spent $200,000 preparing for the changes and is selling bus and rail passes with the new fares this week.

Manuel Criollo, an organizer for the Bus Riders Union, one of the groups that sued the MTA, said his group would continue to look at other legal options. But it was unlikely that any legal action would occur before Sunday, he said.

Effective Sunday, the price for a monthly pass for buses and trains will increase from $52 to $62, the day pass from $3 to $5 and the monthly pass for seniors from $12 to $14. The price for a single ride will remain the same at $1.25, but another across-the-board increase is already approved to take place in two years.

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The MTA board approved the fare increase May 24 after officials warned about a looming $1.8-billion structural deficit projected over the next decade. Fares have largely been kept flat over the last decade.

The Bus Riders Union along with an environmental group and a think tank alleged in a court filing that some of the fare increase revenues would fund capital projects to expand rail lines or widen freeways at the expense of bus riders.

If that were the case, the plaintiffs argued, the MTA would be forced under state law to prepare environmental impact reports. The plaintiffs argue that more pollution would be generated as riders switched over to cars.

MTA officials and lawyers denied the allegations, and said the fare hike revenues would be used solely for operating expenses for the bus and rail system.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant said the Bus Riders Union and the Los Angeles-based Natural Resources Defense Council did not provide sufficient evidence Wednesday that the MTA intended to use the fare increase money for capital projects.

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ron.lin@latimes.com


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