Beeline rates set to triple

CITY HALL — Riders of the Beeline bus service could soon see fares triple under a proposed rate increase that the City Council will consider this month.

City transportation commissioners voted 4 to 1 on Wednesday to recommend that the City Council raise the regular Beeline one-way fare to 75 cents, while at the same time slashing two routes with low ridership. The fare would be raised to $1 in July 2012.

Under the same recommendation, the one-way fare for the Metrolink express bus from the Glendale Amtrak/Metrolink station to downtown Glendale would be raised to $2.

The City Council will review the proposal this month and vote on it in October. If adopted, the increased fares would go into effect in January.

City officials say the fare increases and service cuts are needed to help balance the city's transit fund, which relies entirely on property tax revenues set aside for transit operations. Those revenues have remained stagnant as operational costs continue to rise.

"We are up against a budget situation that is simply not going to allow us to operate as we have before," said Transportation and Parking Commissioner Bill Weisman.

Commission Chairman Christopher Welch voted against the recommendation, countering that the 200% fare spike would disproportionately affect low-income riders.

"I'm not going to get behind a 75-cent fare," he said. "I'm just too concerned about the impact this will have on low-income and fixed-income riders."

According to a city consultant, the fare increases could result in a loss of up to 40% of the system's 2.5 million annual users, Welch added.

Instead, Welch said, the City Council should consider combining the two routes that run a block apart on Central Avenue and Brand Boulevard.

Other commissioners noted that the current 25-cent fare is far below others in the region and likely should have been raised in previous years to prevent such a major spike now.

Brooke Geer Person, executive director of the nonprofit Glendale Transportation Management Associates, said the proposed $2 express fare could hurt commuters who are already grappling with Metrolink fare increases.

"You're really asking a lot out of Metrolink riders," she said, adding that some commuters may choose to bring their cars instead.

The proposal includes the elimination of Beeline Route 13, which runs from Chevy Chase Canyon to downtown Glendale, and Route 12, which runs down the San Fernando corridor from the Glendale Amtrak/Metrolink station to the Burbank Metrolink station.

The cut would leave Chevy Chase Canyon without any available bus service, while the San Fernando route is covered by a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus line.

Without the 75-cent fare increase, the commission likely would have had to cut more service routes.

Commissioners expressed concern about the elimination of the San Fernando corridor route, but said they did not want to cut more widely used routes.

"We're dealing with numbers," Commissioner Aram Sahakian said. "We know what the ridership is, and it's low."

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