Here’s the news release from Metrolink, the commuter rail agency funded in part by Metro:
Metrolink Conducting Public Outreach Process for Potential 5-9% Fare Increase and Title VI Service Delivery Standards
Increase in fuel costs and contracts due to labor agreements drive $13 million funding gap for FY 12-13 budget
Los Angeles – On April 27, the Metrolink Board of Directors directed staff to initiate a public outreach process for a potential system-wide fare increase to help close an existing $13 million funding gap for Fiscal Year 12-13 budget and Metrolink’s proposed Title VI Service Delivery Policy. The public will be asked to give feedback regarding an average system-wide fare increase between 5 and 9 percent to go into effect on or after July 1, 2012.
“Last year, we were able to delay an increase to passenger fares and member agency subsidies while increasing train service by 14 percent. This year, despite continued efficient management practices, our costs have increased mostly because of the rising cost of fuel and an increase in our operations contracts due to a sweeping nationwide labor negotiation settlement,” said Metrolink CEO John Fenton. “A fare increase is a last resort to be able to maintain current service levels. The proposed fare increase will only cover a portion of the funding gap. It would take a 20 percent fare increase to cover the entire funding gap. Metrolink member agencies are also being asked to increase their subsidy to reduce the amount of the fare increase to passengers.”
The major increases include:
•$4.7 million increase in fuel costs (in the past two years, Metrolink’s fuel costs have increased by 78 percent)
•$3.2 million in increases to contracted vendor costs due to a nationwide labor agreement
•$1.3 million in connecting transit transfer costs for Metrolink riders
•$1.0 million in the Bombardier contract to support the rail reliability program and increased car cleaning costs associated with the additional rolling stock additions to the fleet.
•$2.5 million for post employment benefits, which weren’t previously budgeted for
“The current economic climate, including soaring fuel prices, requires tough decisions by transportation leaders to fund operations at a level that will continue to meet the region’s transportation needs. Many transportation providers across the country and in the Southern California region are faced with the same challenges, and have responded by raising fares up to 35 percent,” Fenton said.
This proposed fare increase is separate from the 2004 Board adopted policy to restructure fares from a zone-based fee to mileage-based fares over a 10-year period. The phased restructuring is not meant to generate additional revenue for Metrolink, but was implemented to ensure a fair and equitable fare policy. When combined with the proposed 5-9 percent increase, this could result in increases of up to 13.58 percent for less than one percent of Monthly Pass holders and up to 20 percent for less than one percent of one-way or roundtrip tickets. The average increase across the system would be between 5 and 9 percent, however. Fare tables are posted online and will be available at public workshops and at the public hearing to help members of the public determine the potential fare increase’s impact to them.
As a recipient of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding, Metrolink is required to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to carry out the United States Department of Transportation’s Title VI regulations. Comments and suggestions on the proposed fare increase and the Title VI Service Delivery Standards may be submitted orally or in writing at a public hearing to be held on May 30, 2012 at a special-called meeting of the Metrolink Board of Directors or submitted in advance (by May 29, 2012 at noon) of the public hearing by clicking on the “eComment” option at www.metrolinktrains.com/ecomments. Comments can also be submitted by mail in advance of the public hearing by sending feedback to the attention of “Metrolink Fares” at the SCRRA headquarters located at One Gateway Plaza, Floor 12, Los Angeles, CA or faxed to the attention of “Metrolink Fares” at (213) 452-0429. No public comments will be considered after the public hearing scheduled for May 30, 2012 begins.
Metrolink will also hold public meeting workshops across its five-county service area to provide additional information to the public and solicit additional input from the public. The locations of these meetings will be announced by May 6 online at www.metrolinktrains.com and in handouts on the trains.
ABOUT METROLINK (www.metrolinktrains.com)
Metrolink is Southern California’s regional commuter rail service in its 19th year of operation. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), a joint powers authority made up of an 11-member board representing the transportation commissions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, governs the service. Metrolink operates over seven routes through a six-county, 512 route-mile network. Metrolink is the third largest commuter rail agency in the United States based on directional route miles and the seventh largest based on annual ridership.
Categories: Policy & Funding
Gas taxes are like any other tax to some degree in that they discourage use of that product, which is a good thing in the case of gasoline usage since it results in pollution, clogged streets, national trade deficit, tens of thousands of deaths in the US, and so forth. Actually gasoline usage is somewhat inelastic. Even at $4 a gallon, people still drive SUVs in huge numbers. There really aren’t many scooters or motorcycles out there in any real numbers. One takes their life in their hands riding them in Los Angeles.
At the federal level yes, but we’ve placed taxes on gas on the state, county, and local levels many times with no results. Measure R itself is a gas tax at the local level as well. All of these were meant to fund mass transit for the State and local levels, but again, taxing gas do not work as they hope.
In Los Angeles, we pay 41 cents a gallon in taxes when adding up all federal, state, and local gas taxes. That’s actually 13 cents more per gallon than New York.
In the end, adding up all these taxes, compounded with rising fuel prices, just made more Angelinos move from Toyotas and Fords to Kawasakis and Harleys.
“We’ve already taxed gas many times and it’s not working as hoped.”
The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since the early 90s.
The other downsides you mention could be mitigated with a VMT. However, tolls would probably be most efficient if a transponder is used.
“Taxing gas as a means to raise more revenue is based upon the same short sighted theory as oil companies: people will continue to drive cars no matter what the cost.”
I’m not necessarily in favor of raising the gas tax in order to discourage people from driving. I want a user fee for driving to be raised so that roads and highways pay for themselves, preferably 100% and beyond. There are negative externalities that exist that justify this.
Again, what you describe is a downside of the gas tax. VMT or tolls would be more efficient.
Taxing gas as a means to raise more revenue is based upon the same short sighted theory as oil companies: people will continue to drive cars no matter what the cost.
The harsh reality is that raising gas taxes don’t do as much good as tax-gas proponents hope for. It’s simple Economics 101; petroleum is a hard commodity. Taxes shift the curve to affect demand. The tax amount that is added to the shift eventually affects tax revenues. In the end, there’s less tax revenue than before.
This is more so true when there are other alternatives to the car. Raising taxes on gas is expectant that people will drive cars. But let’s look at Taiwan. They tax gas heavily so car ownership there is low. Yet, how do native Taipeites move about the city? Instead of traffic jams with cars, they have traffic jams with scooters.
This is what tax gas proponents expect. For a 20 mile commute (10 mi in each direction) on a 18 MPG car:
(20 mi / 18 MPG) x $4.10/gal gas = $4.56 for commuting 20 miles
$4.56 x 10 gal tank in the car = $45.60 per week
Let’s just add 5 cents to gas so that it’ll become:
(20 mi / 18 MPG) x $4.15/gal gas = $4.61 for commuting 20 miles
$4.61 x 10 gal tank in the car = $46.10 per week with $0.50 going to mass transit funds! Yeah, sounds logical right?
With an alternative to cars called the motorcycle or scooter, increasing number of people will begin doing this, just like Taiwan:
(20 mi / 80 MPG scooter) x $4.15/gal gas = $1.04 for commuting.
$1.04 x 1.5 gal tank of a scooter= $1.56 per week with only $0.075 going to mass transit funds.
Increasing taxes just made one person move to a scooter. And since scooters are much more fuel efficient, there’s less frequency and gallons needed to fill up the tank, so overall, the County see a big drop in tax revenues.
And if you’re think I’m making this up, look around. Don’t you see a lot more motorcyclists on the roads today in LA? Harley Davidson is enjoying 26% increase in sales from last year:
Figures really. LA enjoys terrific weather for most of the year. More and more people are realizing they don’t need a car to commute, they can do just as fine with motorcycles which offer the same freedom as the car. Why take public transit when motorcycles are cheaper?
We’ve already taxed gas many times and it’s not working as hoped.
In fact, as gas prices rise, people are just moving onto more cheaper alternatives like the motorcycle or the scooter. Since their fuel efficiency is much better than cars, it actually doesn’t bring any increase to funds. In fact, it does just the opposite; people drive less of the car, more of the motorcycle; overall there’s a marked decrease in tax revenue.
These are the same pitfalls that happened in NY and Boston. We don’t want to replicate that here. Taxes aren’t the only solutions at hand. There are better alternatives that we haven’t tried yet.
“There are just as many pro-transit supporters in Southern California, but amongst us, there is growing rift between us that believes that there is a more logical, common sense approach to making mass transit work based on seeking alternative revenue earning sources and opportunities.”
It will take a combination of taxes, raising fares and looking at retail. But let’s be realistic, retail at Tustin Station, to give one example, is going to be a hard sell.
At the same time, we should stop subsidizing driving, parking and look at raising the gas tax (at least 5 cents).
Shortening Metrolink cars and using that extra cars to service more frequencies is a good idea. In fact, that’s what they do that in the airline industry all the time. If there isn’t enough passenger base to fill up a Boeing 767, but if the demand is there not to warrant cutting that service, they may just service it with two 737s. The cost of operating two 737s might be a bit more than one 767 so the airfare might go up slightly, but now the airline has two aircrafts on the schedule which evens out the need for travelers with additional frequencies.
1. NY is NOT the transit guru (far better implemented in other countries, especially a few in Asia). The LIRR has big problems and LEGIONS of haters who use the railroad. Metro-North is a bit better, but has its’ problems if it rains too much, as well.
2. Metrolink is LIMITED to frequency of service by the capacity of the corridors. As one example, Metrolink (and Amtrak) may have the right to maybe ONE more train along the LOSSAS because there would be NO MORE room for any MORE trains. The solution: add capacity (adding rail and that may require accessing private property and having to psychically move the original track. The single track in the median of the 10 for the San Bernardo lines causes–what was a 20 minute headway service–a whopping delay of nearly an HOUR by 5:40PM because of the time it take for the incoming train to clear our for the out bound train. The BIGGEST problem for ANY fix is that all the new capacity requires more $$$$$$$ or LOTS more $$$, and Metrolink would have to raise fares anyway, so you would all still be crying.
3. The real problem with Metrolink is that is does NOT have its own revenue like the MTA has 3 different half-cent tax revenues. That’s why they have the money to LEND Metrolink to buy more of the Hyundai-Rotem cars. Metrolink still owes the MTA.
The solution: Metrolink’s own revenue in the form of a sales tax that could be ONE-Fifth of a cent in the 5 county service area. This would be an extremely small increase per county, but would result in REAL MONEY for METROLINK to address all the concerns expressed on the thread. Metrolink is a teeny-weeny underfunded Authority that REQUIRED to have a minimum fare box recovery that is onerous (stuck in by the Republicans/Conservatives to get their support) and because they have no revenue, they have no place to go except the FARES to riders.
Too many assumptions about fixes that affirm the lack of knowledge of the restrictions by either contract with another rail road or understanding that there is NO rail fairy who can magically add more rails for the desired service levels so many want that don’t require LOTS OF MONEY, that those same complainers seem UNwilling to pay in the first play. It isn’t nearly as easy as some of you think, unless you want to PAY for it.
Now that I totally agree with. That’s a good idea that Metrolink should consider as a way to double their frequencies cheaply. I thought you meant before that they should just increase train capacity but keep frequencies the same. But yeah, doing this is a good interim solution since most Metrolink trains run below full capacity. The more trains running the better, even if said trains are shorter.
Why can’t they reduce the number of rail cars, but increase the frequencies then?
If not enough people are riding the trains to fill up one 10 car set, why not split it to two 5 rail car sets? Shouldn’t that give double the frequencies?
You do realize that NYMTA is in a worse debt than Metrolink, right?
No transit agency in the US makes any money because they can’t figure out how to run it profitably. They’re better off bringing in transit leaders from Asia as they’re the only ones who figured out how to make make mass transit work as a for-profit business.
Currently the only two items that keep me on Metrolink (I have a 30+ mile commute) is a 15 MPG guzzling SUV and a pretax benefit, meaning I am paying the price of a Metro monthly pass for a Metrolink monthly pass (approx. 75 dollars vs. 185). My gas bill would more than double if I drove alone to work.
However the savings is slowly being washed out with these fare increases. People who drive cars that get better fuel mileage will not go Metrolink.
Then there is the other thing: I use Metro buses and Metrolink, how are they going to integrate TAP with the Metrolink monthly passes.
Capacity increases won’t solve the ridership problem. When people want to go somewhere, they want to know that a train will be there within a reasonable amount of time from when said people get to the station. The less people have to plan around a schedule the more likely they will just hop on the transit system and go. Otherwise people will just choose to drive. “oh you mean the train does not come for another 2 hours, and the last train to come back home is at 7 pm? Ok, lets just drive then.” That IMO is the core of metro link’s ridership problems. It severely limits peoples ability to simply just “go” somewhere.
1st everyone has to go to the “guru” of transit “New York City” and including the Metrolink board and after that, before they raise their fares they MUST!!! INCREASE THEIR SERVICE BIG TIME-LIKE ONCE AN HOUR 24/7<<<THIS IS HOW THEY'LL BE ABLE TO (((JUSTIFY))) ANY FARE HIKE. If they do NOT increase the service levels BIG TIME, then a judge OUGHT to deny any hike to them. To say the least-what has Metrolink done that WARRANTS a fare hike? Same thing with our own MTA and other Southern California Transit Agencies. These days you just can't increase fares so as to line your wallets while not improving services. one item is the Orange County line on weekends-shame on Metrolink that they don't offer adequet service to Southern California's tourist mecca-especially on weekends. What do transit authorities think that the public is a cash cow?. Enough said-I urge the public to demand better service on ALL lines before they go ahead with any fare increase.
How can Metrolink be so short of cash if they’re ripping us off for $5.25 oneway for a short ride from Cal State LA to Union Station? That’s like only 5 miles of track and they can’t figure out how to make up for the cost of operations?
If they can’t increase frequencies, can’t they just increase the capacity of each train?
If they raise fares, they really need to work out the impending doom with our Metrolink tickets not being valid on Metro after June 1st. I don’t mind a fare increase if it continues to come with Metro access, but if I get a fare increase on top of having to pay 75 dollars for a Metro pass because they can’t figure themselves out, I’m going to rage.
Metrolink is stuck in a vicious cycle. There is not enough ridership to warrant more frequent service, hence less revenue, but the reason for low ridership is because the service is not frequent… So as long as service remains as current levels, revenue wont go up without raising fares, but due to rising fares and low frequency, there is very little incentive to use such service, hence ridership wont go up and… you see how this works???
No one is talking about a tax increase. In fact because the gas tax is not indexed to inflation and in real terms is a tax cut every year is a main reason why public transit continues to get squeezed.
Everyone is looking for a magic bullet so fares do not have to go up or service is slashed, but ultimately things like selling coffee at stations just won’t make any material difference and aren’t even theoretically possible since Metrolink doesn’t own the stations. They could do some things like allow ads and television ads in the trains, but the riders would likely take issue with this.
Unfortunately in this country in the last 10-15 years we have come to believe we can have increasing services and falling taxes. We are in for a very rude awakening.
@ IT Guy in Irvine
I find a tad condescending to suggest that people are a slightly skeptical of these free market solutions to fixing mass transit and that they believe the only solution is to tax the problem away. This is not say that these approaches would not help but they are still just a band-aid in addressing the real systematic failures of government in our country to support and invest in mass transit.
The solutions are widely known but not too many in this country have the courage to push these policies through, one of them being discouraging car ownership.
“The most all-encompassing efforts to put a price on driving, by far, are practiced in Singapore. On that dense island city-state, drivers must pay not only to use the roads, but to own a car at all. Starting in 1990, the government began to ration out permits to own personal vehicles, allowing the total supply to rise by three percent a year, according to Der. Since then, the allowed growth in automobiles has been lowered twice, to its current level of 0.5 percent a year. As a result, there are only 608,958 passengers cars in the entire nation of 5.2 million people. “The going price for a car is almost 80,000 US dollars, just for the certificate,” Der said.
Once Singaporeans have paid that much for the mere right to own a car, they also have to pay for the use of the roadway. Prices at 80 tolling stations across Singapore change every three months, based on congestion conditions.
Without competition from subsidized driving, the Singapore transit system is actually able to turn a sizable profit. Though the government helps pay the capital costs of the transit system, Singapore boasts a farebox recovery ratio of 126 percent”
Will it help revenue to replace the free drinking water on the trains with vending machines? Summer is coming and people want nice cool water, ice tea, and coffee.
I think there is a growing number of people are getting sick and tired of the usual “tax everyone” solutions, just like myself who commutes from Irvine to Los Angeles.
There are just as many pro-transit supporters in Southern California, but amongst us, there is growing rift between us that believes that there is a more logical, common sense approach to making mass transit work based on seeking alternative revenue earning sources and opportunities. Our opinions matters just as equally as the simpler “more taxes” solutions, especially at a time when most of our paychecks aren’t growing. Sorry, I haven’t seen my paycheck rise in the past five years and my wallet gets thinner with higher taxes.
Besides, the whole point of an opinion panel and boards like these is to create discussion and better ideas than a “tax everyone and nothing else” solutions. At least there are those that are giving examples and ideas based on how other cities around the world operate mass transit with a combination of BOTH taxes and public-private enterprise solutions.
All the naysayer folks do is “tax, tax, tax” and any idea other than that, they brush it off without putting much thought. Maybe you guys need to lighten up a bit to realize that there are more solutions to this world than simply more taxes.
I certainly don’t see anything wrong with trying something new, especially when the idea involves something that promotes private-public enterprise like adding in retail stores to the stations to help revenues.
Maybe start off with food trucks to be there during the morning and the evening to see how it goes to see if there is a retail opportunity to be made. You can’t do real change when it’s always the same “tax, tax, tax” solutions that doesn’t seem to be working.
Unlike MTA Metrorail – Metrolink doesn’t even own the stations, so retail at the stations would not help Metrolink financially. The stations are owned by the the Jurisdiction they are located in. For example all the stations in the City of Los Angeles are owned by the City of Los Angeles and operated by the City of LA DOT except of course LA Union Station which is owned by MTA.
Sure you can have a newstand and maybe something selling coffee, but this is a story about fares going up. That type of business is not going even make the slightest dent in the need for fares to rise. Even then it is not very realistic. People are at these stations for all of a few minutes out of a day. What business wants to sell a few newspapers and a cup of coffee for a few minutes and then have no customers for the rest of the day? Y Fukuzawa is talking about building shopping malls aka airports.
@Fukuzawa: Spend some time observing the traffic (or lack of it) at the food/retail outlets at the Santa Ana and Irvine stations. Then come back and tell us how retail will be the savior of the system.
You never commuted on Metrolink have you? Getting to a train station 3-4 minutes early, chances are you’ll be going around looking for parking space and missing the train.
In Europe and in Asia, even train stations “in the middle of nowhere” have a combination of a coffee-stand that opens up at dawn for commuters going to work in the morning, it changes to a restaurant during the day so people can sit there as a lounge for other commuters, and it changes into a mini supermarket at dusk so people coming back from work can do their grocery shopping after coming back from work.
All of these are locally owned businesses that creates job for the local economy. It also helps pump in some extra revenue to help pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the train station. Commuters that buy goods and services at the stations also pay sales taxes, so that adds to additional revenue as well.
Those that say there’s no point in putting shops at train stations can’t see the forest for the trees.
Airports you have to get there early so you have a captured audience. No reason to get to a train station more than 3-4 minutes early.
For those people who say adding retail stores to stations isn’t realistic, here’s my two cents from as an actual Metrolink rider.
I use the Simi Valley Metrolink station. I end up getting their early as with others there because we have to save our parking space. Do you know why the stations look empty 99% of the time? Because people have nothing else to do at the train station so they just sit in the car at the parking lot.
There’s no waiting area, no restroom, no ATMs, no Wi-Fi, nothing. It would be so much better if they had a 7-Eleven, a Starbucks stand or ANYTHING, than just sitting inside the car.
The same rebuttal can be said for airports in many cities and towns across America and the world; they’re in the middle of nowhere and some airports only have few flights per day. Yet even small airports like Eugene, OR or Fargo, ND offer far better retail and services than the Metrolink train stations. So if smaller airports that only see few flights per day (some even less frequencies than Metrolink!) has a business going on at airports, why can’t it be applies to train stations?
Airports have business areas, spa centers, restaurants, gift shops, vending machines, relaxing areas, all while waiting for the airplane in case you get there too early. All of that adds to revenue and creation of more jobs. It also adds extra layer of security and a more secure area with activity than just eerie quietness. If you add shops, restaurants, and places do business, you actually make the train station a part of a destination itself, instead of “there’s nothing to do at the train station, why get they’re early,” in contrast to an airport which is “who cares if we get there too early, we can just hang around the gift shop or grab something to eat at the restaurant.”
Sure it would be nice if Metrolink would be able to go to electric, but the costs would be enormous and Metrolink is the ugly red headed stepchild of LA public transport so it gets little support from the Member Agencies. As oil costs have soared, someone must pay for them and the taxpayers simply won’t accept a tax increase. As for making the stations generate revenue. They are empty 99% of the time and in the middle of no where mostly. Simply not a realistic proposal.
The motorcycle seems be becoming a better option for those who have longer commutes too…
[…] Metrolink Proposes 5 to 9 Percent Fare Hike (The Source) […]
“How about pay cuts to Metrolink boardmembers who couldn’t foresee rising fuel costs also affects Metrolink!?”
They foresaw rising fuel and labor costs since the late 1990s to early 2000s when they began annual fare increases. The proposed fare increase is not a surprise. There is a public outreach period every year to discuss it. Just like your hamburger at McDonald’s goes up in price every so often, so will the price of a Metrolink ticket.
“Make the stations themselves a revenue maker. ”
Metrolink stations are often in the middle of nowhere. A business would be lacking for customers most of the day because the service is sparse on most lines.
Im a fan of them switching to Electric or light Diesels too (mostly electric). but yes, it’s gunna cost a lot of money to get to that point first…and altering some FDA rules…..
@L Sanchez: Guess again. Metrolink uses diesel, not gasoline. Diesel is taxed differently. Moreover, as a public agency, Metrolink does not pay most (if not all) of the taxes a consumer would pay. In fact, untaxed diesel is dyed to make it harder to smuggle into the consumer market.
@Angry rider: How is this different than the price of bread going up (or the size of the loaf shrinking) when wheat prices rise? Did the bakery “not foresee” how rising wheat prices would affect the cost of the finished loaves?
How about pay cuts to Metrolink boardmembers who couldn’t foresee rising fuel costs also affects Metrolink!? Funny you never hear about that option!
One thing that could help Metrolink save a lot of money operation wise in the future would be switching to EMUs or light DMUs rather than the behemoths currently used. Now, about those pesky, outdated FRA regulations… you would think now that Metrolink is implementing positive train control (PTC) that these type of train sets could become a reality. Ah but alas, that would make too much sense and hence why its not being done (yes, that means you Federal Railroad Administration)…
Seems to me that some of those extra trains added on the Ventura Line and AV line were a lot of short turns after or before rush. Yes, you didn’t need extra crews or equipment, but if fuel costs are the main problem, then maybe they need to rethink those runs. Can’t be running very full.
Would rather see for example on the AV line, every 2 hour service between the rush hours and 60 service on SB line , Ventura county needs to step it up on that line, otherwise cut back to rush hour and let Amtrak do the rest of the service.
I feel like Metrolink’s fares should be subsidized more. Their fares are very high even compared to like systems elsewhere.
I sent in a comment to go public with an IPO.
It’s time they need to start doing business instead of coming back to taxpayers everytime for their lack of accountability.
•$4.7 million increase in fuel costs (in the past two years, Metrolink’s fuel costs have increased by 78 percent)
Oops, looks like higher gas taxes in California also takes a hit on Metrolink trains as well. Who would’ve thunk it!
I was just in Mississippi for a business trip this past weekend. The average price of gas there was $3.60/gal, approximately 40 cents cheaper than California. Imagine what 40 cent difference in taxes makes when that also applies to Metrolink trains?
@ Frank M
How would you propose Metrolink get the money needed to close the funding gap? It already has distance fares, and I doubt investors would buy stocks for something that can’t even operate like a non-profit. I suppose you could get retail to help close the gap but then again whose going to build the outlets for them to lease and operate from, where is that money going to come from?
I’ve been this saying it for a long time:
Make the stations themselves a revenue maker. Train stations themselves are a great place to do business, yet all it does is a place to wait for train; nothing but a wasteful unitasker.
Rent spaces out to businesses and retailers, and do profit sharing. That alone would do wonders to close the budget gap.
“Higher fares, higher taxes, service cuts.”
Those three are always the only options on the table for anything funded with tax dollars.