Citing the financial strain of fare increases on low-income transit riders, a group of Los Angeles County transportation officials have drafted a plan that would temporarily halt a Metro proposal to raise fares on the bus and rail system three times over the next eight years.
At the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and two other Metro directors will introduce a motion that would allow one fare increase this summer, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Two subsequent increases that would take effect in 2017 and 2020, as well as any increases to student fares, would be put on hold until a panel of transportation experts could assess Metro's financial situation.
The proposal, sponsored by Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas, says the Metro board should be "satisfied that a range of options ... have been evaluated" before scheduling three fare increases at once.
Metro's board of directors will consider two options for fare increases, as well as the new proposal, at their meeting in downtown Los Angeles.
Metro has said a fare increase is necessary to close an expected $36-million gap in the agency's 2016 operating budget. The agency's financial analysts say the deficit could grow to $225 million over the next decade. Without higher fares, the agency has said, Metro will consider laying off nearly 1,000 employees and cutting 1 million hours of bus and rail service in 2015.
Rider advocates have criticized Metro for a policy that they say would disproportionately harm the county's poorest residents. More than 80% of bus and rail riders are minorities, and their average household income is less than $20,000, according to Metro data. Metro's fares are some of the lowest of any major transit system in the United States.
One proposal would raise the basic $1.50 bus and rail fare to $1.75 in September, to $2 in four years and $2.25 in 2021. Fares for seniors and the disabled would double to $1.10.
Under an alternative proposal, base fares would remain at $1.50 during non-peak hours. But rush-hour fares would rise to $2.25 in September and more than double to $3.25 in 2021. A $5 day pass would increase to $13 in 2021.
Both proposals would modify the agency's transfer policy, allowing passengers 90 minutes of unlimited rides. Currently, passengers must pay a new fare every time they board a new bus or train.
The motion by Garcetti, Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky asks for a panel made up of representatives from the American Public Transportation Assn. and officials from "similar, large transit authorities."
The panel would report back next year on a variety of revenue options, including charging for parking at Metro stations and linking the price of bus and rail fares to the Consumer Price Index. It would study changing the fare structure for seven-day and 30-day passes.
The proposed motion would create a Metro riders representative who would "serve as an independent advocate to monitor and assess customer service-related issues" and evaluate future fare-structuring ideas.