Other items from today's Board of Directors meeting

And here are a few other items the Metro Board took action or discussed on at today's meeting:

•The Board approved issuing a public notice that the Metro Board will seek a change to the technical language of Measure R that is necessary before the Board consider any future project acceleration plan. The change would allow funds to flow to some projects earlier than anticipated — only if those funds are secured. Staff report

•The Board approved a revised draft environmental impact report for the project that would add HOT lanes to the I-5 between the 14 freeway and Parker Road in northern L.A. County. As part of the approval, the Board selected the HOT lanes as the locally preferred alternative for the project.

Quickie background: This is a project that Metro intends to build this decade through a public-private partnership. As originally envisioned, the project would have included carpool lanes. Instead it will now convert the lanes to toll lanes in order to raise the money to pay back a contractor for building them now instead of a completion date of 2040 or later. Staff report

•As the result of a motion by Board Member Mel Wilson, the Metro Board approved increasing the percentage of funding to be spent on pedestrian improvements from 7.5 percent to 10 percent; in the annual call of projects process. And, if there is money remaining that hasn't allocated by the Technical Advisory Committee, it will first go to pedestrian improvements along the Crenshaw/LAX Line corridor. Staff report

•Metro staff gave a brief presentation on fare restructuring requested by Board Member Diane DuBois. It's important to note that Metro's soon-to-be released budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year does not include a fare increase or fare restructuring.

Staff said that the goals of any future restructuring should be to keep fares simple and make fares easy — and possibly time-based so that transfers are included in the base fare.

Staff also showed graphics that explained that Metro's base bus fare of $1.50 is among the lowest in the world — and so is Metro's farebox recovery ratio of 26.3 percent (in other words, fares only cover 26.3 percent of the expense of operating Metro's buses and trains).

Finally, staff showed a graphic that in the future Metro is likely to face an operating deficit if revenues are not increased or expenses reduced. There was little Board discussion.

Bottom line: There are no fare hikes or changes on the near horizon but it's an issue that will likely be revisited next year.


Categories: Projects

16 replies

  1. I think distance based fares is the way to go.

    Look at it this way. How do oil companies make money? They charge people the price at the pump and they reap in BILLIONS in dollars in profit right?

    You fill up gas, you drive around until empty, and you refill it up again.

    How’s that any different from you fill up money, you drive around until empty, and you refill it up again? And the money disappears BY THE DISTANCE.

    You fill up $50 worth of gas, as you drive the $50 disappears. Depending on gas mileage of the car, it’s about like 20-30 cents a mile. And when the $50 runs out, you fill it up again.

    And oil companies reap in BILLIONS in dollars this way.

    So why can’t public transit run like this? Fill it up a TAP card $50, ride through the system by the distance around 10 cents a mile using a tap-in/tap-out system to become more competitive to oil companies, and when the $50 runs out, you fill it up again. Multiply this by the number of riders who rides this way and Metro could be just as profitable as oil companies.

    If you think about it just closely for a second, public transit can be so much more profitable. All they need to do is act and compete again oil companies that way.

  2. Perhaps the MTA could bring in more revenue by: 1.) ACTUALLY OPENING the building at El Monte Station to a retail vendor of some sort (even a Starbucks!), and 2,) CHARGING the “artists” for having their “public art” on display at any and all bus and rail stations!

  3. Fare gates are needed. Staffing officers all the time cost a lot of money. Officers are human beings just like the rest of us. They need breaks, they need to eat, they need to sleep, they need vacation and overtime pay.

    Metro is gaining ridership everyday. With ever increasing number of riders as the system expands, doing fare checks using officers isn’t effective, rather, it’s becoming impossible to do. There’s a limit to number of officers we can hire. There’s a limit to how many officers can be in the system doing fare checks. And there’s a limit to how many officers can check tickets for the number of passengers involved. And we do not have the luxury of hiring more officers when budgets are tight.

    The only way moving forward is to let fare checks be done automatically with a machine. In this case, it’s the turnstiles and the fare gates. Rather than increasing the number of officers whose sole job is to do fare checks and pay them $50,000 a year per officer not including pension and benefits pays, it is far better financially to buy a fare gate or turnstile machine which will sit there stationary 24/7/365 days a year do nothing but fare checks without complaining or asking for pay raises or vacation.

    Which one do you think is better?
    Hiring 10,000 new officers which will ask for pay raises, vacations, rest time, breaks, and can’t be there 24/7 doing fare checks and providing security


    Installing fare gates at all stations, locking them all up so that the machines can take over the task of the fare checks and only hire 100 officers throughout the system to focus their attention solely on providing security to the area.

    Do the math. It’s the failure to think like this that is driving Los Angeles down to bankruptcy.

  4. Oh jeez, not this again. The fare gates are a done deal, there’s no point arguing about it. Studies have shown that the critics were right and Metro was wrong on this part. And it took Supervisor Zev to get that in order, just like how he stepped his foot down in eliminating the maintenance fee for the ExpressLanes.

    And who cares if it’s turnstiles and faregates are stone throw away from doing distance based or not? It just means down the road, there’s less cost involved in moving over to them if we decide to go that route. Besides, a lot of cities have locked gates and flat rate fares too. Look at New York, Boston, Chicago, and the San Francisco MUNI. They use turnstiles and faregates but they don’t use distance fares or zone fares.

    But if we decide to choose the distance or zone fare path like Washington DC, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore, then that means we’re prepared for that too. You get the best of both worlds with locked turnstiles and gates: keeping the flat rate policy but ensuring everyone pays like NY, Boston, and Chicago while at the same time, also being ready to go distance based if studies show that’s a better fare approach to go to.

    That being said, the locked turnstile project should be done ASAP as a #1 priority across all stations both old and new ones being built. Then we have all the bases covered today and tomorrow.

  5. Henry,

    Gates cost too much money to install and maintain. Even if fare evasion is happening, how long will it take to recover the cost of installing those gates?

    See, it never was about collecting fares. We were doing fine before that with random police officers. They also helped maintain security too.

    Why fix something that’s not broken?

  6. Henry,

    Not a single statistic has proven people were riding for free. We don’t need gates. What’s wrong with random fare checks? You don’t pay, you get a fined. Simple as that. Besides, a lot of cities don’t use locked turnstiles and do perfectly fine without them.

    Metro’s real intent to install them was to phase in distance based fares. We need to stop them from installing them everywhere.

  7. PGary,

    That sounds very plausible that you just sent chills down my spine.

    You’re absolutely right! Once the gates are locked throughout the system, it won’t be long before Metro put locks for exiting the stations too. We all know how they love to use the “security is our number one priority” excuse for everything.

    Step 1: Move everyone to TAP (completed)
    Step 2: Install gates citing “security reasons” and “fare evasion” (completed)
    Step 3: Force everyone to TAP in to go through the gates (completed)
    Step 4: Once gates are completed throughout the system lock the gates on exit too citing “security reasons.” (in progress)

    Step 5: Force everyone to TAP out to go through the gates
    Step 6: Phase in distance based fares on light rail
    Step 7: Once everyone gets used to it, phase in distance based fares for buses

    JESUS CHRIST MAN, we’re only 3 steps away from big brother government controlling our way of lives!

    No way am I letting Metro know where people are going. That would be very possible if everyone was forced to TAP in and TAP out everywhere they go using Metro. I am not going to let government keep a constant eye on me on how I travel.

    I think this is Metro’s true long term plan. They just don’t want to talk about it or admit it.

  8. I’d like to see Metro lock all turn styles and stop customers from riding for free; I see it all to often and so much money is being lost…

  9. You know what.

    The more I think about it, I think Metro is already laying out the foundations to move towards distance based fares.

    Look at how Metro is now strictly TAP only.

    And they’re installing those turnstiles at all stations.

    Everyone is forced to TAP-in right now. Put the two and two together and you can definitely tell which direction they’re headed.

    Metro is already “planning ahead” to move to distance based fares. That way, they can just lock the gates at the exits too and force everyone to TAP-out. They can make up any number of excuses to make people do that. “Security reasons” or “collecting ridership data” or whatever idea they can concoct with.

    Once everyone gets used to TAP-in and TAP-out, they can easily phase in distance based fares to the riders.

    That’s just how governments work man. They control you so in steps to move towards what they really want.

  10. I think at least the light rails should be distance based.

    When the Regional Connector is built, it will merge the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines together meaning people could go from as far away as Long Beach and Venice Beach all the way to the Atlantic and APU/Citrus College. That’s stretching to 40 miles worth of transit and it’s insane to charge everyone the same price at that distance.

    Henry Fung,

    I wouldn’t say all major transit agencies. The Washington DC Metro is one. CalTrain, BART and Metrolink uses them too. I think some parts of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Salt Lake City is moving toward them too.

    I think that’s the way the trend transit agencies in the US is moving towards as new technologies such as contactless cards are capable of doing these things in a more efficient way than the hassles that were involved in a cashed-based, paper tickets and paper pass system which we was just impossible to do.

  11. On the other hand, the major transit agencies in the US are all flat rate fares. No major agency in North America has the kind of distance based fare structure that people commenting want, on their bus system (Golden Gate is not major, and Seattle’s zonal system is very hard edged). The time based fare is standard in most other parts of the country. A $2 fare for two hours or $2.50 for two and a half hours, combined with a $6 day pass and $80-$90 monthly pass, is standard in the other Top 10 cities in the country. The only cheaper city than LA is Houston, at $1.25 – but Houston eliminated all passes completely and only has transfers on their smart card, and has an express bus system that charges distance based fares.

  12. And this being the city of Angels, are we to expect there won’t be fare beaters and abusers who will pay the low distance fare and take the long, long ride? The distance fare based folks continue to sound more selfish than ever.

  13. Disgusted at politicians,

    You can see how LA Metro stacks up to other cities around the world here:

    We rank among the lowest of all major transit agencies in the world.

    Those that have the highest, if not even profitable (over 100% farebox recovery ratio), tend to use zonal or distance based fares.

  14. “Staff said that the goals of any future restructuring should be to keep fares simple and make fares easy — and possibly time-based so that transfers are included in the base fare.”

    Of course, Metro staff would say this. They don’t want to work with the complexity of a distance based fare system. Instead, they’d rather get paid doing a much easier job by continue to suck our tax dollars dry!

    Distance based fares is simple for the riders. Tap-in and tap-out.

    But for the people working at Metro, it makes them work harder, that’s why they don’t want it.

    Tough luck. That’s what you’re paid with our taxes to do.

  15. I dunno. Has Metro ever conducted a study on whether people want a “complex, but fairer” distance based fares to a more easier “flat-rate” fare, provided that we have TAP technology now that all people have to do is tap-in and tap-out?

  16. A farebox recovery ratio of 26.3%!?

    How do we stack up with other cities then? What fare system do they use?

    I think bottom line, that’s the place we need to look at.

    How to increase this and what method to use to bring in more revenues.