Click above and below to see larger views of the two options.
Metro staff released a fare restructuring proposal today that would raise fares in three phases over the next eight years while also making Metro more customer-friendly by allowing riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for a single fare.
The proposal includes two options for restructuring fares. The first option would raise the base fare from the current $1.50 to $1.75 for the next four years and eventually to $2.25.
The second option would keep the base fare at $1.50 during off-peak hours and raise it to $2.25 during peak hours for the next four years and eventually to $2 in off-peak hours and $3.25 in peak hours. Both options with the complete set of increases are shown above.
The increases are needed to help cover the expense of running its bus and train system and to prevent a budget deficit in 2016, according to Metro staff. Metro has raised fares three times in the past 18 years, most recently in 2010 when the base fare went from $1.25 to $1.50.
The proposal is a notable departure from the current fare system that requires passengers to pay a full fare for each individual ride on a Metro bus or train — which effectively punishes those who must transfer to reach their destinations (Metro customer surveys indicate more than half of its riders transfer to reach their destination). Metro staff say the proposed fares would be helpful to those using the Metro system to run short errands and will likely reduce the cost of riding Metro for some passengers.
For example, under the proposed fare system, a rider could ride from home to the supermarket and back for just a single fare — as long as they board their last bus or train within 90 minutes of starting their trip.
Under the proposal, the cost of daily, weekly and monthly prices would rise because pass holders tend to be the heaviest users of the system. Another significant change would be the eventual elimination of the current monthly pass in favor of the EZ pass that would allow for unlimited travel on Metro and other bus systems in Los Angeles County.
Metro staff are asking the Metro Board of Directors to schedule a public hearing on the fare proposals on Saturday, March 29 at 9 a.m. No fare changes can take effect until the Metro Board votes to approve them, which is scheduled to happen on May 22, according to the staff report. The Board has the discretion to accept, reject or request changes to the staff proposals. The current proposal calls for the new fares to take effect on September 1.
Some points to consider:
•Fares currently cover 26 percent of the cost of operating Metro buses and trains — the so-called “fare recovery” rate and the current average fare for Metro is just 70 cents. Those are both low compared to other agencies and will eventually cause a budget deficit as costs rise of running the system.
•The regular base fare for most other large transit agencies is already $2 or more. The New York City subway, for example, charges $2.50, the San Francisco Muni $2, the Chicago CTA is $2 for buses and $2.25 for trains, the Portland TriMet $2.50 and the Washington Metro charges $1.60 for buses and $2.10 for peak hour rail travel. All those agencies allow for free transfers within a 90-minute or two-hour period.
•Metro CEO Art Leahy has repeatedly said a new fare structure is needed to encourage more ridership and run a more efficient system. Riders sometimes take longer routes to avoid transfers, which Leahy has said doesn’t promote efficient use of the system and drives up operating costs. Leahy also has said that he expects next year to launch a major study of the efficiency of Metro’s route structure.
•The ability to transfer for free within 90 minutes would only be available to those with TAP cards. The reason: TAP cards will be the technology used to track how long people are riding the system.
•Metro last raised the price of the regular base fare and daily, weekly and monthly passes in July 2010. Fares for seniors, disabled and students were not raised at the time because they had been frozen by Measure R for five years.
The Metro staff report on the fare proposal is below or can be downloaded here as a pdf file. The proposal to call a public hearing is scheduled to be discussed by the Metro Board of Directors at their regular meeting on Jan. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in the Board room at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station. The meeting, as always, is open to the public. You can listen to the meeting by phoning 213-922-6045.