MTA to raise fares 6%

Transit users will start paying more Thursday to ride Metrolink and bus, subway and light-rail systems operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is raising fares for the first time in two years.

At the MTA, the one-way cash fare will rise from $1.25 to $1.50, a daily pass will go from $5 to $6 and a monthly pass will increase from $62 to $75. Fares will not be raised for students, people with disabilities, Medicare recipients and people who are 62 or older.

Metrolink, the commuter rail service that serves five Southern California counties, is raising fares an average of 6% to help cover a decline in ridership and revenue. The increase is expected to raise $3.3 million next year.

MTA officials say the increase — the third in 15 years — will help eliminate a deficit in the budget that pays for bus and rail operations. The authority is reducing the remaining gap by cutting staff, reorganizing the agency and employing other cost-saving measures.

The deficit was caused by a decline in ridership, the loss of state funds and declines in revenue from two of the county’s three transportation sales taxes — all factors driven by the economic recession.

Authority officials expect ridership and tax receipts to rebound next year. But there was no suggestion that the fare increase would be rolled back if that occurs.

The MTA had planned to raise fares on July 1, 2009, an increase that was postponed because of the passage of Measure R, the county’s latest sales tax to raise money for transportation projects.

The fare increases have been supported by the Transit Coalition and Southern California Transit Advocates as being preferable to service reductions. The Bus Riders Union, however, has protested the MTA fare increase, contending that it will hurt low-wage earners who depend on public transit.

Earlier this week, Foothill Transit in the east San Gabriel Valley also increased its fare from $1 to $1.25 and all passes by 10%. In August, Santa Monica Transit and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which runs the DASH bus service, plan to raise fares.