The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to consider fare changes at its meeting on Thursday. The meeting, as always, is open to the public and begins at 9:30 a.m. at Metro Headquarters, which is located next to Los Angeles Union Station East (the side on Vignes Street). Those who can’t make it to the meeting can listen over the phone at 213-922-6045.
The two proposed alternatives by Metro staff are shown above. Both would raise fares in three phases: in September 2014, Sept. 2017 and Sept. 2020. Both would allow free transfers — Metro riders must currently pay full fare when transferring. The primary differences between Option 1 and Option 2 involve the pricing of fares and Option 2 would include a higher fare for peak-hour travel.
Below is the Metro staff report posted today (Tuesday) on the fare restructuring plan. Most notably, the report includes the Metro staff recommendation that the Board adopt Option 1 and no longer consider Option 2. The report also includes a summary of public comments on the fare proposals, Metro’s response to those comments, Title VI analysis and other financial data.
The last fare increase was in 2010 when the regular single-ride fare was increased from $1.25 to $1.50. Fares for seniors, disabled riders and students have not changed since 2007; the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 froze those fares for five years.
The Metro Board of Directors has 13 members, including the five County Supervisors, the Mayor of Los Angeles and his three appointees and four elected officials from different parts of Los Angeles County. The fare changes in Item 54 of the agenda require two-thirds approval from the Metro Board to take effect — i.e. nine of the 13 members.
In addition to the fare changes in Item 54 on the Board’s agenda, three Board Members — Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — have submitted the following motion that would, among other things, postpone implementation:
55. MOTION by Directors Ridley-Thomas, Garcetti and Yaroslavsky that the Board of Directors:
A. Direct the Chief Executive Officer to take the following actions related to the Fare Subsidy Program:
1. Update the eligibility for participation based on the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2014 Poverty Guidelines and adjust eligibility annually based on updates to the guidelines;
2. Report back to the Board in September 2014 with recommendations on how to expand outreach and enhance marketing for the program; and
3. Report back to the Board in January 2015 with assessments regarding whether additional funding should to be allocated to meet growing demand.
B. Direct the Chief Executive Officer to temporarily freeze student fares at their current pricing levels until further evaluation by the Transit Ridership Best Practices Task Force.
C. Direct the Chief Executive Officer to take the following steps in order to decriminalize youth fare evasion on Metro’s system:
1. Report back to the Board in September 2014 on the establishment of a comprehensive diversion program, including the feasibility of requiring all youth that are cited for fare evasion to participate in a mandatory online educational diversion program and/or participate in community service in lieu of fines and court appearances and recommendations on any necessary changes to the California Penal Code.
D. Postpone implementation of the proposed 2017 and 2020 fare increases until after the Chief Executive Officer convenes a Transit Ridership Best Practices Task Force, in coordination with the American Public Transportation Association, to provide guidance on fare structuring strategies that optimize MTA’s financial performance while minimizing the burden on the system’s lowest income riders. The panel should be asked to consider alternative revenue generation strategies as well as provide recommendations on opportunities to expand ridership; and report back to the Board by July 2015 with their recommendations.
E. Direct the Inspector General to immediately establish, within her office, a Rider’s Advocate that would serve as an independent advocate to monitor and assess customer service related issues and evaluate future fare structuring strategies.
The motion will require nine votes to pass.
A fare hearing was held on March 29 at Metro Headquarters. About 165 members of the public testified to the Board of Directors; here is a link to audio from the hearing. Many other riders and stakeholders submitted their views to Metro on the fare changes via the Internet, regular mail and telephone.
Metro has a helpful frequently asked questions section on metro.net about the fare increases. Click here to read the entire FAQ. Below are a few excerpts from the FAQ — questions that I have also been hearing frequently.
Why raise fares?
To help customers more effectively use the transit network and address a quickly growing operating deficit, Metro is proposing adjusting fares over several years.
The current fare system charges customers a full fare for connections, which means base fare customers pay double to transfer. This does not encourage customers to take advantage of the growing transit network that taxpayers fund. Under the new fare proposal, customers could transfer between buses and trains within 90 minutes of boarding—for free!
Metro is expected to cover a portion of its costs with fares, which have only increased three times over the past 19 years. Metro fares now pay for 26 percent of the buses and rail operating costs; this number is dropping as operating costs rise due to inflation and fares stay the same. Without fare changes, Metro’s deficit will grow to $36.8 million in two years and $225 million in ten years. With the proposed fare changes, Metro will gradually reach a point where fares cover 33 percent of operating costs; this percentage is consistent with rates at other major transit agencies. In addition, Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan* and federal funding agreements assume a 33% farebox recovery* rate.
What about trips when the rider can’t transfer before the 90-minute period is over?
Based on Metro ridership data, the majority of commuters complete their trip in 90 minutes. The 90 minute window allows for transfers without a more complicated distance-based fare system. For Metro trips longer than 90 minutes, for example to neighboring counties, a second fare will be required.
How will monthly passes change?
Under both proposed fare change options, monthly passes include more features. Both options combine the regular monthly with the EZ Pass* in 2017 to offer transit users more convenient access to municipal operators throughout the region. Customers will only need one pass to board and ride any of the 24 TAP*-enabled systems, including Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Foothill Transit, Torrance Transit, Montebello Bus Lines, Santa Clarita Transit and others (note: additional zone charges may apply).