Metrolink bosses eye fare increase

GLENDALE — Metrolink’s Board of Directors is mulling a fare increase of up to 7.5% to keep pace with the rising costs of diesel fuel, which hit record highs this week.

The possible rate hike would replace an increase that the board adopted in 2007, which bumped fares up by 3.5% on July 1 in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

A round-trip fare from Glendale to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, which now costs $8, would potentially go to $8.60 with a 7.5% increase.

“Certainly when fuel prices go up it affects our service,” Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said. “Our trains use two gallons of diesel fuel per mile, so we’re talking a service that uses thousands and thousands of gallons of diesel fuel.”

Even a modest five-cent increase in diesel costs translates into an additional $300,000 in operations costs annually, she said.

“And we’re not talking a nickel; we’re talking a dollar,” she said. “This is a lot of money and Metrolink is an organization that does not rely on any kind of debt; so we’re a cash-and-carry kind of outfit . . . . Our situation is that the money has to come from somewhere.”

Nearly half of Metrolink’s operations costs are covered by agencies in the Joint Powers Authority — a governing board comprised of the transportation commissions in Metrolink’s service coverage area, including authorities in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, Tyrrell said. And those agencies have already kicked in more than they budgeted for to meet rising fuel costs, she said.

“The Joint Powers Authority is looking at the passengers to share some of the pain here,” she said. “I think everyone involved is in the same leaky dingy, where we’re all seeing all of our expenses go up. And we don’t want to take it out on the passengers, but again we have the responsibility to allow the community to be served.”

Some passenger and consumers group see rate increases as inevitable, in light of skyrocketing energy costs.

“[The Rain Passengers Association of California] reluctantly supports a moderate fare increase which would be in line with the consumer price index,” association President Paul Dyson said.

But the consumer price index, which measures the price of consumer goods, is showing a surge of between 3.5% and 5.5%; so 7.5% would be in excess of what the index currently reflects, Dyson added.

Details of any fare adjustments are scant at this point, so it is uncertain how the increases would play out across the Metrolink network, he added.

The association is against any service cuts as a way to shave operations costs, he said.

“We are adamantly against any cuts in Metrolink service,” Dyson said.

“We firmly believe that we need more Metrolink service in this time of congestion, poor air quality and increasing gasoline prices. We think that Metrolink is one of the key solutions to our transportation problems.”

Presently the board has not approved any rate increase and is asking for public comments before any decision would be made, Tyrrell said.

Comments can be e-mailed to MetrolinkFares@scrra.net; faxed to (213) 452-0421 or sent via U.S. mail to Metrolink Fares, 700 S. Flower St. , 26th Floor, Los Angeles, Calif. 90017.

The board of directors will hold a public hearing at its April 25 meeting, which is at 10 a.m. at the Southern California Associated Governments, San Bernardino Conference Room at 818 W. 7th St., 12th Floor, Los Angeles.


 CHRIS WIEBE covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at chris.wiebe@latimes.com.

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