Metro fare changes to be considered Thursday by agency's Board of Directors; new motion seeks to postpone some changes



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.

I’ll be covering the Board meeting throughout the day on The Source and on Metro’s main Twitter feed. More information about the proposed changes can be found by clicking here.

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 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).



16 replies

  1. As does the idea of extending out the Gold Line all the way to San Bernardino County.

  2. Apart from the Disneyland bus, when does Metro cross out of L.A. County?

  3. fuzzylogic,

    “The City and County of LA covers a huge area, hundreds of square miles….”

    As does London and Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo and London has a LARGER population than LA and the Greater Tokyo Area is LARGER than Los Angeles County. Don’t think so? Google it up or look up wikipedia on your own.

    LA is a huge area. That’s exactly right. And that’s exactly the reason why it doesn’t make any darn sense that a person who has a need to go from Koreatown to Downtown LA has to pay the same jacked up fare hike rate as another one who has to go from Sylmar to San Pedro.

    Do you have any statistics to backup any of your remarks that a lot more people travel from Sylmar to San Pedro often and more frequently as opposed to Koreatown to Downtown LA? Should a college student living in the San Fernando Valley who studies at Pierce College, a student that goes there more frequently and more often, pay the same jacked up fare hike rate as opposed to someone who travels all the way from Santa Monica to Long Beach?

    How fair is it that a poor mother who has to feed her children has to fork over $2.25 to ride the bus to go to the nearest supermarket just to buy a gallon of milk, in which the supermarket is less than a mile away, is paying the same price as someone who travels farther?

    How many people do Sylmar-San Pedro trips everyday? Do people who are reliant on public transit living in Sylmar, are they going to be spending that much time on public transit to go earn minimum wage at a job in San Pedro? Or is that person living in Sylmar more likely to have a minimum wage job in Sylmar?

    Do you have any studies or research to backup your theories that middle class residents who are well off to own a car anyway who lives in “San Pedro, Pomona, Porter Ranch” have a dire need to use Metro over longer distances as opposed to East LA residents who are likely to have jobs nearby?

    You can cite anything BS theories you want, but they hold no ground unless you provide hard data, something that you fail to do. You sound exactly like those GOP idiots who say gay marriages will lead to marriages with animals and that traditional marriages have to be saved yadda-yadda-yadda.

  4. fuzzylogic,

    My taxes pay for the LADWP. According to your world view, I, who rents a bachelors apartment, should pay the same electricity and water bill as big Hollywood movie stars who uses up a lot more electricity in their big mansions and has a big swimming pool.

    Yes, let’s make the world more socialist by making everyone equal. If you’re a Hollywood big shot, you pay $1,000 a month in electricity and water. If you’re a poor waiter who struggles to earn a living and lives in a single room bachelor’s apartment, you still pay $1,000 a month in electricity and water.

    That’s your socialist world view. Because we all pay taxes to the LADWP, everyone should pay the same price no matter how large or small they consume electricity or water.

  5. matt B,

    In Singapore, shortest trips are $0.60 and the longest trip (from the city centre to the Woodlands Crossing border with Malaysia) is $2.50. And they manage to achieve over 100% farebox recovery ratio. And they managed to figure out how to do that on buses.

    In Hong Kong, shortest trips start off at 3.50 HKD, or about $0.45 and has a farebox recovery ratio of over 185%, something that no US transit agency can achieve in their wildest dreams. And that’s just on farebox alone. Real estate profits are posted separately. And Hong Kong has never made a fare increase. And Hong Kong MTR is run purely on profit, so much that it listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and pays out yearly dividends to their stockholders.

    And Singapore and Hong Kong has a higher GDP than the US.

  6. Proposal are more difficult for the majority of the low income people .
    In the San Fernando Valley buses run every 1 hour and when they broke down 2 hours.
    What about to have a minimum service of every 20 minutes?
    What about service until 10 – midnight so people have a chance to enjoy good life for dinner, movies, shopping,etc?
    And, finally buses arrive around 15-20% late of the schedule time?
    When METRO makes those improvement then users will be ready to consider rate increase stick to the cost of leaving!

  7. fuzzylogic,

    The article states that the majority of public transit users in LA are poor, making less than $20,000 a year. These people do not own homes in the suburbs and have 20 miles commutes as a white collar office job in DTLA. These people live in apartments and have menial slave labor wage jobs nearby. Those earning minimum wage are not living in big McMansions and commute into LA just to flip burgers at McDonalds.

    Porter Ranch is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in LA. They can afford to pay more if they have a need to use public transit in the first place.

    Public transit is for the poor. The poor who can never own a home, who are forever renters, who live within the city and have back breaking jobs no one wants to do close by. They are not meant for the rich who can afford homes in the suburbs and get to work in a cozy air conditioned office building making $50,000 a year staring at a computer monitor.

    Unless you can provide a study which shows a direct income to travel distance (how far which income groups commute to work), your points are backed by nothing.

  8. Distance based fares are not the answer despite the enthusiasm that it’s proponents have. Should someone from San Pedro, Pomona, Porter Ranch, etc. have to pay more to use Metro because of where they live. They are paying the same taxes that fund Metro but will need to pay more to use the system. Is it fair that those who live close to busy streets with lots of Metro buses or close to a rail line will pay less than those who will need some transfers. The City and County of LA covers a huge area, hundreds of square miles and spans a mountain range in the middle of the city, but the distance based fare supporters do not think about that or are likely to live in a place that has infrequent Metro service.

    Comparing Metro to Bart naive and lacks the knowledge of what makes them so very different. Bart does not even accomplish half of the things that Metro does and BART primarily serves the suburbs (sounds like Metrolink in LA). Metro serves the suburbs and the urban core. Metro has thousands of buses; Bart has how many???? I couldn’t find any on google search except for AirBart a the Oakland airport.

    Metro is a publicly controlled transit agency unlike many in the rest of the world and it’s naive to think that it could be molded into something akin to those systems.

  9. “With the proposed fare changes, Metro will gradually reach a point where fares cover 33 percent of operating costs”

    Metro can also lose riders too with a fare hike.

    Metro is assuming that LA has the same demographics in the East Coast where the people have no choice but to suck up fare increases because that’s the only way they can get around.

    LA however is not like NYC or Boston. There are alternative means of travel. The weather is nice here throughout the year. If people can’t afford cars, and if they can’t afford Metro, they can buy a scooter.

    Metro expects everyone to fork over $180 in monthly passes? Here’s a reality check for Metro: If anyone is going to pay $180 a month in a monthly pass, that adds up to $2,160 a year on bus passes. You can buy a scooter for less than that amount:

  10. There are other things that can be done (e.g. selling real estate) and distance-based fares make sense to more fairly distribute costs to users who cost more to serve, but note also that SF and Washington Metro (and London for that matter) are more expensive to ride even on short trips than Metro. Washington is $1.70 minimum if using electronic medium, and that’s going between two close-together stations during non-peak hours. Most trips are quite a bit more (e.g. Bethesda to Union Station is 2.75 off peak / 3.65 peak). On BART any trip crossing the bay (e.g. west oakland to embarcadero) costs over $3, the cheapest trips are around $1.80. The cheapest trips on the underground are 1.6 GBP (about $2.70).

  11. The reason and objective is “increase farebox recovery ratio.” If that is the reason and objective, why is Metro’s sole solution “let’s jack up the fares for everyone?”

    If the reason is increasing the farebox recovery ratio, shouldn’t then Metro, before considering a fare hike, look at what other cities are doing and how their farebox recovery ratios stack up to what fare structures they use?

    In this wikipedia article, it states that Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Taipei, and Singapore manages to achieve over 100% in farebox recovery ratio. San Francisco BART and Washington DC Metro both achieve a 64% and 62% farebox recovery ratio. London Underground manages to achieve a 91% farebox recovery ratio.

    What do they have all in common? They all use some sort of variable pricing method, distance or zonal based fare pricing systems.

    Doesn’t that give a hint that instead of a flat rate fare hike, Metro should be looking at distance based fares if their goal is to increase farebox recovery ratios?

  12. “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 is Metro able to gather this data without a TAP in/TAP out system? Unless there is a TAP in which records what time a person gets on and a TAP out which records what time a person gets off, and another data point on the transfer points’ TAP in, it is impossible to arrive at the 90 minute number accurately.

    Is it based on unreliable surveys and following around people as mystery riders?

    How did Metro arrive at this number?

    And remember, your results have been proven wrong many times, like the fare evasion rates. How can we trust your numbers?

  13. While I am very much in favor of free transfers, I suspect that many people who currently have monthly passes will no longer purchase them at the increased price under this proposal. In my own case, under the current system a monthly pass it clearly worthwhile because I transfer between trains going to and from work (so $6 / day, or $5 / day with a daily pass). The cost of a $75 monthly pass is easily recouped within 15 days (i.e., 3 regular work weeks). If transfers are free, however, and the cost of a monthly pass is increased, it is no longer worthwhile. At $3.50 / day, it would take 35 days to recoup the cost of a pass (assuming no other trips), and of course there are not 35 work days per month. End result: fewer sales of monthly passes, and less money spent by at least this rider. It makes me wonder whether they actually did the math.

  14. mike dunn,

    Yes, let’s go back to the old 1950s method where people have to punch out things rather than utilize what TAP cards can do which we invested millions on, nevermind the fact that in 2014, we have more people using Metro and more people living in LA than 1950, that in which doing things manually by hand is a lot more slower and a lot more costlier than doing things automatically with PROVEN technology that has been in use in major metropolitan transit oriented cities all across the world.

    We should throw out the millions of dollars that taxpayers paid for in upgrading our fare collections system to TAP and replace it with 1950s technology.

    Maybe we can all ditch iTunes and go back to listening to 8 tracks too! And the administrators at Metro HQ should dump all their computers and go back to using Royal typewriters and carbon copy paper.

  15. Why not use the old system to determine when a transfer expires? One hour and forty minutes punched/indicated after the scheduled arrival time at the terminal.