Metrolink Board approves fare increase

Here’s the news release from Metrolink:

LOS ANGELES – After skipping a fare increase last year, the Metrolink Board of Directors approved a seven percent average systemwide fare increase to go into effect on or after July 1, 2012. Funds generated from the increase will be used exclusively to help close a $13 million funding gap for the fiscal year 2012-13 budget.

“This is a last resort to be able to continue to offer the safe transportation options the region needs without cutting service. We’ve streamlined our operations and continue to keep the majority of our costs and headcount flat, despite a nine percent increase in ridership,” said Metrolink Board Chairman Richard Katz. “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 in large part because of an increase in our operations contracts due to a sweeping nationwide labor negotiation settlement and a 56 percent increase in fuel costs over the past two years.”

Of the $13 million funding gap, the fare increase will only generate $4.5 million dollars. Increased subsidy from Metrolink’s five member agencies will cover the remainder of the funding gap.

Specific cost increases include:

•$4.2 million increase in major contractor costs including but not limited to the rise in Amtrak’s contract to reflect their nationwide labor settlement

•$4 million increase in fuel costs (in the past two years, Metrolink’s fuel costs have increased by 56 percent)

•$1.3 million in connecting transit transfer costs for Metrolink riders

•$2.5 million for post-employment benefits, which weren’t previously budgeted for. (This is not a new cost or an increase in benefits. It’s being included in the budget for the first time this year.)

This proposed fare increase is independent from the 2004 Board adopted policy to restructure fares from zone-based 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 7 percent increase, the Metrolink Monthly Pass will cost approximately $20.00 more beginning on or after July 1, 2012. However, the impact of the fare increase varies depending on the type of ticket, distance traveled and where the trip begins and ends.

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, in addition to federal and state law that requires a public hearing before fares can be modified. Public comments and suggestions on the proposed fare increase and Title VI Service Delivery Policy were collected beginning April 27, 2012. Metrolink conducted additional public meetings across its five-county service area to allow the public to weigh-in on the board’s pending action. Approximately 159 individuals – about .7 percent of Metrolink’s daily riders – submitted comments regarding the fare increase. Seventeen individuals provided comments on the service delivery policy.


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.

35 replies

  1. I would be for distance based fares if they were standardized,

    “Surely there has to be more than simply “not knowing how much it’ll cost until you get off.” Can anyone enlighten us how that works?”

    You get on from the back of the bus and take a numbered ticket. The ticket is stamped with the bus stop number that you got on. At the front of the bus, there’s a big LCD display that shows what you have to pay when you get off at the next bus stop according corresponding to your numbered ticket (the bus stop that you got on). You can actually get change from the farebox! When you get off, you get off from the front of the bus passing by the bus driver. You drop in the ticket and the fare right there. Did I mention that it gives change?

    Such “distance fares for buses” systems have been in production since the 1960s in Japan and they are mass produced to keep costs low. The numbered ticket issuing machine, LCD display, farebox, and change machine package cost about the same amount as a new laptop.

    A Japanese company called Lecip produces them and ships them all over the globe to places like Taiwan and Singapore where distance fare buses are the norm. Maybe Metro should start talking with them: They even do trade shows here in the US at American Public Transportation Association’s EXPO.

    Or, if that’s all confusing, they can also find ways to promote more tap-in/tap-out on the buses. That is even cheaper as tap-in/tap-out units are like $10 and they’re mass produced in China. You just load up like $20 or whatever onto your TAP card, tap-in when you get on board the bus and tap-out when alighting, then the fare deducts value of trip based on distance traveled. One just needs to ride buses in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and others on how this works and they work perfectly fine with transit riders and with tourists. Clearly, there isn’t any confusion from American tourists to Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong when using their transit systems.

    “No need making my life more difficult by using transit agencies which can’t even come to an agreement on how to standardize a simple thing like “how do we charge our customers for the price of taking our trains and buses.””

    Eventually, the fare structure and system will have to be regulated and standardized. But as it stands now, this isn’t a high priority for any of the transit agencies in LA. For all they care, the board members of each of these agencies are headed by local politicians whose main priority is to be looking after the best interests of their direct constituents, rather than the constituents in other parts of LA. There will never be any coordination or organization unless a bigger authority puts their foot down for all the agencies to follow a guideline.

    That’s exactly what happened in Japan in the 1950s. Everybody, including the government, was making up their own rules and fare systems that it became so confusing for anyone to go from one part of the city to another. This bus company uses a flat rate, the other one used distance fares, this one had a different method to pay for it versus another one, a transfer from this bus was ok with to this train but not with that train, the pass was accepted on this bus line but only if you paid a bit more, etc.

    Just like you has said, they tried to make it simple, but in the end everyone started making up their own rules that it became confusing for everybody. The whole mess wasn’t resolved until the government stepped in and said, “enough is enough, we’re standardizing the whole thing to distance based fares on a floating fair market value of around X yen/kilometer plus or minus X% adjusted for any inflation, and any big fare raises will have to be go through a lengthy government review process, and that’s final.”
    Unless something like that happens here in LA, you’ll just have everyone making up their own fares as they go along.

  2. How do other transit riders living in countries that run on a distance fares on their buses know how much they should have in cash or how much it’s going deduct from their cards when going from one place to another? Surely there has to be more than simply “not knowing how much it’ll cost until you get off.” Can anyone enlighten us how that works?

    “If you live in Santa Monica you might use SM BBB and Metro consistently, but the chances of using a bunch of other systems like Metrolink and Dash would be fairly small and if that were the case, wouldn’t you just buy an E-Z Pass which covers transit pretty much everywhere?”

    Or, I can just continue to drive. Driving a car is much simpler than memorizing all these options. Run out of gas in Santa Monica as opposed to Irvine, as opposed to Vegas, still the same procedure to fill up the gas tank: drive up, dip credit card, fill up the tank, off I go.

    I also have an app on my smartphone which tells me directions to the cheapest gas station. And at any gas station anywhere in the US, I can use my VISA card. At any gas station anywhere in the US, the price of gas is standardized to $X/gal format for 87 octane regular gas. At any gas station, they usually have stores that allow me to buy food and drinks, and they let me use the restroom if nature calls. Plus, I earn rewards (3% cash back for gas purchases) and discounts at Ralphs when I fill up the gas using my credit card. I earn nothing when I pay by cash or use TAP.

    Public transit has none of these conveniences or standardization. I don’t earn rewards or cash back for taking the bus, I end up wasting 30 minutes of my life under the hot summer sun risking heat stroke for waiting for the bus, I can’t eat or drink on the bus, I have to listen to loud Transit TV which annoys the heck out of me, and there’s no standardization going on for payments or fare value across all the different agencies.

    Life is just simpler with the car. No need making my life more difficult by using transit agencies which can’t even come to an agreement on how to standardize a simple thing like “how do we charge our customers for the price of taking our trains and buses.”

  3. In the end, it’s still the same result. Asia gets transit right, we get it wrong. Standardization of all the transit agencies in LA with a fair market distance based fare system is going the be needed if we’re ever going to get transit right.

    “The question is would you think it is more simple if you get on a bus going to a destination and not knowing how much your fare would be until you got off?”

    How is that any different from not knowing how much it’ll cost to top fill up the tank of the car when you drive into the gas station, or not knowing how much it’ll cost for a box of cereal at Vons as opposed to Ralphs without going to either supermarket?

    How do you think people in Asia gotten used to that concept if they’ve been running on a distance based system for decades?

    Surely, since you’ve been to Asia and used their transit systems, maybe you can explain with your first hand experience on how you figured it out or have gotten the hang of riding their systems under distance based fares.

    Or did you just simply top off the contactless card with money, tap-in/tap-out and not really care how much it cost to get from one place to another? How’s that really any different from loading up TAP with cash value?

  4. I would be for distance based fares if they were standardized,

    The question is would you think it is more simple if you get on a bus going to a destination and not knowing how much your fare would be until you got off? On a distance based fare system this would be the case, unless you knew the exact mileage between your entry and your destination.

    By the way, I think you are exaggerating the complexity of the system. If you live in Santa Monica you might use SM BBB and Metro consistently, but the chances of using a bunch of other systems like Metrolink and Dash would be fairly small and if that were the case, wouldn’t you just buy an E-Z Pass which covers transit pretty much everywhere?

  5. Central LA Metrolink Rider,

    Please look at the comment I made regarding Metrolink. Most people in Los Angeles aren’t going to avoid riding the Expo Line, Red Line or the busses because of Metrolink’s fare structure. Very few of us have ever even ridden Metrolink in the first place. Where did I imply LA residents should not be restricted or discouraged from Metrolink? Your comment that implies racism and elitism on my part is completely off-base and I think you should apologize.

  6. “You really think a person who uses or might use Metro in Central LA cares or even knows what the cost of a Metrolink ticket is?”

    Yes, we do. Or what, are you implying that inner city people living in “Central LA” shouldn’t be allowed to use Metrolink because we’re not “rich” or “classy” enough to ride it and that we should stick to “dealing with the slower, cheaper, Metro” if we want to go watch an Angels game in Anaheim or visit Disneyland?

    It’s not that hard to google up Metrolink fares. Or what, are you implying that us people in Central LA can’t afford computers or have the intelligence to use the internet?

    Are you saying that people living in Central LA should be stuck living and working in Central LA and not have the equal opportunity to find work in Orange County? Do you want Metrolink fares to remain so expensive that only the rich, classy white people living in the suburbs can afford to commute to Downtown LA and at the same time, restrict the poor, uncouth, black and Hispanic people from ever coming into the suburbs to seek equal opportunity jobs at venues like Angels Stadium, Orange County Fairgrounds, Anaheim Convetion Center, Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm? Or would you like us to just deal with it by commuting to those places with four hours of commuting on Metro or just deal with high gas prices to drive there?

    Me thinks you’re the one who’s being elitist and a hypocrite.

  7. If every transit system in LA used a common fare structure it would be so much easier for me to figure this entire system out. As it stands now, I rarely use public transit because it’s so confusing.

    Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is $1.00 but it doesn’t use TAP. Metro is $1.50 and also issues passes and TAP, except for the Silver Line which is $2.45, but it honors the Day Pass, but is $0.95 additional when using a 7 or 30 day pass. Then there’s the Culver City Bus which also uses TAP but is $1.00 and it only accepts cash value portion of TAP since it issues no passes. Now DASH is also going to be on TAP too, but that one is only 50 cents. Then there’s Metrolink which starts off at $5.25.

    It’s like you need an instruction manual published for all the different transit systems in LA just to figure out how to use them! And good luck trying to explain this to first time visitors to LA. Usually my relatives end up saying “forget it, let’s just rent a car.”

    The car is just simple. I just hop in, turn the ignition, and off I go. If it runs out of gas, fill it up. Simple as that. There’s no need for me to memorize that “in Santa Monica, it’s $1.00 but you can’t use TAP. In Culver City, it’s also a $1.00 but they accept TAP. Oh but within Downtown LA, if you use Metro you might be better off with 30 day pass, but becareful if you plan on using the Silver Line as that’ll cost extra and the bus doesn’t give change. Using DASH might be an option, if you don’t have money on TAP, make sure you have two quarters on hand.”

    It may sound like they’re making things simple, but in reality, with no standardization going on between them, it just makes everything so confusing. And the truth is, no one in LA just sticks around in place. They cross different boundaries. We go to Culver City. We go to Santa Monica. And we go to Downtown LA and we also go to outlying suburbs.

    Isn’t there anyway we can just standardize the whole fare structure?

  8. Y Fukuzawa,

    You really think a person who uses or might use Metro in Central LA cares or even knows what the cost of a Metrolink ticket is? It has no bearing on whether he will ride Metro. Besides, you are the one that takes over every other Source post comment board going on about distanced based fares. If people don’t use transit in LA because it is too complex and varies too much as you state, don’t you think a distance based system would deter even more people since it is much more complex for people to understand rather than a set amount? You are contradicting yourself. I think we have established that while distance based fares might be a positive in the long run, they are certainly no panacea as you often imply. Metrolink (which is what this post is really on) is example #1.

    On the Japanese cost of gas, you are using a theoretical argument that can be applied all over the place. Just the same, one could say many economists think the Canadian currency is overvalued by 25% as well. Try explaining to people that $4.00 a gallon gas is really not that much in the US because we have an overvalued currency compared to the Euro and Yuan. Even if you take your 25% overvalued theory to heart, it still doesn’t fly, because oil is priced in dollars, so if the yen suddenly devalued by 25% the Japanese would just have to pay 25% more in yen to purchase the oil on the world market.

  9. “How do you make any sense that Metrolink charges $5.25 for an one-way fare and takes 24 minutes to travel a measly 6.0 mi of track from Glendale Station to LA Union Station on Metrolink? Who’s going to ride it? No one.”

    To be fair, it was designed that way. The fares on Metrolink are meant to encourage long-distance commuters to use the service while simultaneously discouraging short-distance commuters from using the service. Those users would theoretically be better served by local bus or train service. Amtrak is even more extreme in that sense. The idea is to keep shorter-distance commuters from taking space from the longer-distance commuters. Rush hour Metrolink trains are quite full.

    Your idea would make more sense in the off-hours and weekends, but that would complicate the fare system beyond what the powers that be are comfortable with. There have been proposals to institute a dollar per station charge for shorter trips, but that went nowhere. I’m not even sure I could call it a proposal but more like rumors.

  10. Matt,

    Rebuttal #1:
    The Japanese yen is 25% overvalued to the US Dollar and has been repeatedly been analyzed many times by financial advisors both internationally and in Japan.

    Considering that and other factors such as purchase price parity, the more generally accepted rate is 100 JPY = 1 USD. Using overpriced currency exchange rate as a base figure that in Japan it costs $7/gal is not a fair way to judge the true price of oil in Japan. From the average Japanese person, the 100 JPY coin is used more like $1 bill instead of a $1.33.

    The average price of gas in Tokyo is approx 136 JPY / 1 liter for regular octane gas. The source of this is from if you can read Japanese. I expect a source that is directly in Japanese and is a Japanese equivalent of would be the most accurate figure than citing English sources.

    Converting that to USD/gal in the generally accepted 100 JPY = 1 USD exchange rate adjusted for PPP, the cost of gas is $5.17/gal, which is comparable to that of Canada.

    Besides, the point doesn’t even matter. Transit agencies in Japan don’t even use the higher price of gas nor taxes from gas to fund their mass transit systems as they are all private enterprise.

    Rebuttal #2:

    In the case of Metrolink, their distance based fares are way too overpriced for the poor service it provides for the distance they travel.

    How do you make any sense that Metrolink charges $5.25 for an one-way fare and takes 24 minutes to travel a measly 6.0 mi of track from Glendale Station to LA Union Station on Metrolink? Who’s going to ride it? No one. It’s cheaper, faster, and more efficient to travel by car, motorcycle, scooter, or bicycle than pay $5.25 for 6 miles that takes 24 minutes to get there, not including wait time for the train.

    OTOH, you have Metro running the Expo Line all the way from Culver City to 7th/Metro, almost 10 miles of track for $1.50. What is this disparity? You have one agency ripping off people for poor service to travel 6.0 miles for $5.25 one-way, and another which gives you a steal for traveling 10 miles for $1.50 one-way. There is absolutely no consensus or organization going on between any agency in LA to provide a true market value of how much it costs to travel a mile on transit.

    Compare that with Japan. JR, subway, private rail lines, the difference to travel the a similar distance is consistent. Private rail is on average, only 10 yen more expensive than JR. The cost to travel JR on their local, limited or express trains for the exact same distance between stations, it’s same price.

    The whole fare system in LA is a joke. There is absolutely no consensus on any of the agencies on fares. They practically make it up as they go along. Culver City Bus charges $1.00, DASH charges 50 cents, Metrolink’s shortest route costs $5.25, and Metro charges $1.50. And you wonder why people don’t use transit, the whole thing is so confusing because there’s absolutely no consensus on what the true value of transit cost per mile is.

  11. Y Fukuzawa,

    You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Saying Japan has comparable gas prices to Canada is blatantly false. A gallon of gas in Canada costs roughly a little less than $5 a gallon. In Japan it is near $7 a gallon. I wouldn’t say a $2 a difference is similar would you? Making up your own conversion rate is nice. I suppose when I go to Japan in a few weeks when I convert my dollars to yen, I will cite your rate as a source and they will give me that?

    “Both of them makes no profit as again, it relies on a dumb flat rate system as with other failures in the US”

    Given you said this, I assume you think moving to a distance based fare system like Metrolink would make them profitable even though Metrolink is not?

  12. That’s not the only reason the Las Vegas Monorail failed as a private enterprise. It was just a bad route. Having experienced it, it was very difficult to access the stations and required long walks. If it were on the Strip, I think it would have been more successful. It also failed to hit the airport.

    Also, the problem with subsidized driving rears its ugly head as well. How does a privately operated monorail compete with the Strip’s subsidized roads?

  13. Actually a good (bad?) example of the closest thing to a private transit company in the US would be something like the Las Vegas Monorail Company or the Detroit Transit Corporation.

    Both of them are costly and inefficient monorails. The former links multiple casinos near the Strip and eventually will link up with McCarran Int’l Airport. The latter makes a loop around major areas in Downtown Detroit.

    Both of them makes no profit as again, it relies on a dumb flat rate system as with other failures in the US (DPM spends $3.00 per mi in running it but only charges $0.75 per ride. Duh!) but at least they are operational from corporate sponsorships (casinos, hotels, sporting venues) they receives.

  14. “Essentially, it’s like Wal-Mart Railways, Costo Bus Company, or Target Transit Corporation. They need customers to come to their stores, so they build railways and bus lines that direct the people into their stores.”

    Some of the Mexican markets around here operate shuttle buses to and from their stores. That’s the closest thing we have to your example, haha.

  15. “I’d say easily 1/3 of the people riding the trains don’t pay at all.”

    The actual reports that use large sample sizes say that, at most, 1 out of 20 riding the trains don’t pay. At times, fare evasion, with large saturation rates (meaning 1 out of 10 are checked), has been measured at 1%.

    “The Metrolink Board will end up reconsidering their ways if ridership plummets by double digits.”

    If ridership plummets by double digits, there won’t be much they can do. They can either raise fares or make service cuts. Or they can try to convince the member agencies to increase the subsidy.

    Caltrain has a similar problem in the Bay Area. They keep kicking the can down the road every year before the inevitable service cuts are carried out.

  16. I love Japanese railways and I would love to see some of that railway technology brought to California.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that JNR built Shinkansen (bullet train) lines from Sendai to Fukuoka while it was still nationalized. Plus quite a few electric commuter train lines. The “baby JRs” stand on the shoulders of giants, at least as far as construction is concerned.

    Also, “Target Transit” isn’t quite accurate; Seibu and Kintetsu also own hotels to go along with the railways (including the Miyako Hotel in Los Angeles).

  17. Carter,

    “Japan certainly has a lot to [t]each American about how to run transit”

    I agree. Has Metro looked to sending their best and brightest for a study abroad program to Japan to learn from their mass transit agencies on how they run their operations? Many countries send their best and brightest to learn in the US. Clearly we need to do the other way around for public transit in America.

    “will mean that many comparisons will be apples-to-oranges — that is, not always applicable.”

    The way things are going with public transit in America, they are rotting apples. If it’s comparing rotting apples to fresh oranges, I’d gladly take the fresh oranges.

    If the cost of driving in Japan is not much different from Canada which is only slightly higher than the US, how can they be so successful with transit as well? There has to be more to this. What makes them so better and what can we learn from them?

    We shouldn’t be learning from other rotting apples. We should rather, dump the rotting apples and start planting fresh oranges.

  18. It’s also worthy to note that most private transportation operators in Asia are big name retailers and department stores.

    Essentially, it’s like Wal-Mart Railways, Costo Bus Company, or Target Transit Corporation. They need customers to come to their stores, so they build railways and bus lines that direct the people into their stores. Of course those ideas are only possible if private transit is legalized, but Asian governments encouraged that to promote economic growth. Since they already own the properties near their stores, they can also start building their properties with leased office spaces and retail spaces.

    If that were to happen to in the US, is the time when Wal-mart, Costco, and Target realize they’re not seeing more people driving to their stores due to high gas prices. When that happens and when private mass transit gets legalized, you will get something like Asia.

    Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target owns the parking lot to their stores; if private transit gets legalized they can easily convert them to a big rail or bus transit center and develop the excess parking lot spaces to leased office spaces and retail spaces. But legalization of private transit and end to government monopoly of transit has to happen first to get this ball rolling.

  19. Despite the typecast, driving in Japan isn’t necessarily that expensive to drive. If you just look at Tokyo that maybe true, but once you get out of that 30 million plus population metropolis, everything else is quite comparable to the US.

    Gas prices in Japan are comparable to those in Canada when considering the more accepted 1 USD = 100 JPY exchange rate, which is quite amazing considering that Japan has no natural resources. Public parking fees outside the Tokyo metropolitan areas are around $4-5 day which is on par with most cities in the US.

    Japan’s expressways are ETC toll lanes similar to what LA is implementing and what is the norm on the East Coast. But revenues from these rarely even go into mass transit funding, they are put back into maintaining their expressway systems and other road and bridge projects.

    After all, Japan is a major exporter of cars, they can’t make driving that much expensive. The more rural areas of Japan has a need to travel by cars as much as the US does. They may have stricter vehicle registration and taxes, but the introduction and popularity of Kei cars which exempts or reduces such fees and taxes still make car driving affordable in Japan.

    The more rational reason why Japan has better mass transit is:

    1. Competition.
    Japan allowed private transit operators to compete with government transportation agencies. After all, Japan is a capitalist nation just like the US; free enterprise is encouraged.

    Go anywhere in Japan, most transportation companies are private companies that aren’t run with taxes and run purely for profit. They buy their own buses, they lay their own tracks, they buy their own trains, they invest in the properties they own to build rail stations, and they are run for profit to pay for transit improvements, labor and overhead costs. Very little, if any, taxes are put into to operations of transit in Japan as majority of them are private enterprise.

    2. Privatization.
    The old Japan National Railways was notorious for its inefficiencies, bad debts, and high fares when it was government owned. Sounds a lot like Metro today, huh?

    It became so bad by the end of 1987 just before privatization to baby JRs, they were spending 140 yen and receiving 100 yen per passenger, a 40 yen deficit and had amassed a debt of over $280 billion yen. It became so bad that the government of Japan decided to privatize the national rail system into multiple private companies, or baby JRs (much like the breakup of AT&T to baby Bells). Private transit companies were in much better shape, offered better service and were much more efficient than the JNR.

    After privatization, JR was able to restructure their organization completely. They issued stocks, they greatly invested in better technology to efficiently manage their operations, they capitalized on their existing investments, and by 1997 they were able to repay back all the bad debt and operate at a profit.

  20. “Is there a reason why these three operators that Frank M gave as an example are able to keep fares stabilized for so long and still make profit? Why can we not replicate that here?”

    Asian transit operators were given essentially carte blanche in developing the areas next to their stations, the thought being that if transit was going to bring development, then the transit provider should profit from that development (or even build/manage it and collect all profits). Of course the (usually very dense and large) development also adds more riders.

    This is completely alien to the American transit experience. American transit systems pre-suburban flight made profits on their own, and thus operators did not pursue development around their stations (i.e. New York or Chicago), letting other develop the land. Modern American transit systems (i.e. Washington) built from the 1970s on were not given the same development rights as the Asian systems (like Hong Kong’s) that being built at the same time, and lost out on the massive development the new systems created. In essence we like to build our transit systems to enable private profits instead of using nearby development to subsidize the transit. Sometimes transit systems are even forced by politicians to give up their assets to other developers at below market rates, as New York’s MTA was forced to do to allow the creation of Brooklyn’s new arena over one of it’s yards.

    The best parallel to the Asian experience was probably the New York Central Railroad, which once had a huge, open-air train yard and terminal that also happened to occupy some prime real estate: midtown Manhattan from 42nd Street and 59th Street between Lexington and Madison Avenues. The creation of Grand Central Terminal buried the yard and station and allowed the railroad to use and develop the newly free land, which is now the among the priciest real estate in the world, and created what we now know as Park Avenue.

  21. Well, the problem will self correct itself since there are many alternatives to Metrolink – including the new Orange Line Extension, which will be faster for many Metrolink riders going to work in the Wilshire Center and Financial District areas instead of dealing with the crowds at Union Station and having to wait 20 minutes for a train, versus a bus every 8 minutes during rush hour. You have the LADOT, Foothill, OCTA, and Santa Clarita commuter buses which did not experience a fare increase, plus vanpools and carpools, and new travel options like the Express Lanes that will reduce the travel time of people coming from the San Gabriel Valley. For intercounty commuters, you have carpools and vanpools.

    Metrolink has a reliable time frame, but often from some of these outlying areas, especially in the morning, taking the bus can be faster. If you read the report they are saying that ridership will only dip slightly as a result of the fare increase. The Metrolink Board will end up reconsidering their ways if ridership plummets by double digits.

  22. I’d say easily 1/3 of the people riding the trains don’t pay at all. It’s easily a larger group than that. If you simply enforce EVERY rider paying there’d probably be no need for a fare increase. I hear all of the time: I can’t afford to ride the bus, lets meet somewhere the train stops.. ie: I’m going to ride for free. While I don’t do that myself, it’s frustrating to me as a paying rider to see my fares increase to pay for those who ride for free. Why not make the turnstyles official? Make ’em only turn for people who tap? Make the paper cards actually swipe?

  23. They should lower the fare to attract new customers instead of asking a handout. It is their problem not to do things right at the first place.

  24. Steve,

    Is there a reason why these three operators that Frank M gave as an example are able to keep fares stabilized for so long and still make profit? Why can we not replicate that here?

    They have to be doing something right and we have to be doing something wrong here.

    • No fare hikes,

      It’s obviously a very complicated issue that touches on geography, economics and politics, but the very short story is that as long as it remains incredibly cheap to drive in America (by international comparison), it will be difficult for public transit to turn an operating profit. Virtually no transit agency in the U.S. does.

      So the way that has largely been addressed in America is to supplement fare revenues with funds from taxes and other sources. Thanks to the bad economy, a lot of those revenue sources based on taxes are taking a hit too, but Metrolink can only spend what money it has in hand to run the trains. No one likes a fare increase, but I think L.A. has actually done a pretty good job at fending off some of the more drastic fare increases that other agencies in the U.S. have proposed or implemented.

      Hope that provides some helpful context. Japan certainly has a lot to each American about how to run transit, but the dramatic differences with respect to economics, geography, etc., will mean that many comparisons will be apples-to-oranges — that is, not always applicable.

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source

  25. Metro should look in the real estate endeavors of other agencies around the world rather than have its head blogger become defensive and dismissive over Internet arguments. There’s some progress at Union Station with the businesses that have come in. I wonder what kind of rent Metro is collecting.

  26. Steve,

    JR East has not made a major fare hike yet it is profitable

    “Meanwhile, JR East has not raised fares since its establishment in 1987, except to reflect consumption tax introduction (1989) and revision (1997). In contrast, during the same period, most of the other major passenger railway companies have been compelled to raise fares more than once to offset sizable investments needed to boost capacity. As a result, JR East’s price competitiveness has risen steadily. Without fare increases or large capital expenditures, JR East has been able to achieve a capacity increase over the 18 years since its establishment equivalent to roughly 3 times the average capacity of its major Tokyo competitors”

    Taipei MRT no fare increases in 15 years and yet still profitable!

    HK MRT raises its fares for the first time since 2007 at an astonishing 34 cents (USD $0.04) under their fare adjustment in line with inflation, while earning HK$14.7 billion in profits last year. Note that fare hikes in the HK MRT is much less impacted as cost of transit is based on distance traveled

    • Hi Frank:

      Thanks. Well, that’s three agencies. I think there’s more than that outside of America. Whatever. No need to waste your time reading the entire Internet. I just wanted to flag readers that I have no idea whether your statement is accurate.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  27. And yet the US is also the only country whose mass transit fares are increasing while most other cities in the world, again to repeat the same thing these over and over these days again, notably transit systems in Asia, are able to stabilize their fares without fare hikes for years and yet still able to churn a profit that doesn’t rely on taxpayer support?

    Wouldn’t that be a cause to say America is doing transit wrong? So why is LA looking at failing examples of other cities in the US whose fares and taxes keep rising with poorer level of service when the answers are right across the Pacific?

    Is it that really that hard to call Singapore? Hire mass transit consultants from Tokyo? Headhunt and scout transit experts and officials from Taipei and Hong Kong?

    Stop comparing with other transit agencies in the US as an excuse for higher fares, higher taxes, and poorer service.

    “Other transit cities in the US have raised their fares” So what? Is that an excuse that we should accept and deal with it because we’re just taxpayers?

    I counter that lame excuse with why then are transit fares in Asia have remained flat yet they are still able to make profits. What is it they are doing right to avoid such fare hikes?

    America’s public transit is a mess because of illogical decisions, and for those poor decisions they have been making, the officials deserve a pay cut. If they don’t like it, they can seek jobs elsewhere. We’re better off using taxpayer funds to bring over transit officials brought over from Asia than paying millions of dollars of pay to American transit officials and politicians who have no idea how to run transit right.

    • Hi Frank;

      It would be great if you can show other readers that the U.S. is the only country where fares are increasing. I have no idea if that’s correct.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  28. Finally no loophole for us to buy the lowest-fare Metrolink one-way ticket and use it as a Metro day pass + local EZ day pass, without actually having to board a Metrolink …. so sad =)

    • Hi Frank;

      Metrolink is facing a $13-million gap and is already a small agency. I’m not sure how of anything outside of massive cuts to salary would close that gap, unless you think Metrolink employees deserve only the smallest of wages or no wages at all. No one likes a fare increase but Metrolink is hardly the only transit agency in America to have to raise prices over the past few years.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  29. Nobody likes to hear about fare increases, but Metrolink really gets stuck with the short end of the funding stick.

    They could use more double-tracking, TAP pylons, less freight interference, TAP pylons, better equipment, and maybe even electrification.

    Yes, I said TAP pylons twice. I really want to see those.