Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 21

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Give L.A.’s riders a fare hike that’s fair (L.A. Times) 

The editorial partially backs the Metro staff proposal for fare increases that will be considered Thursday by the Metro Board of Directors.

In particular, the editorial says the first round of changes — which would take effect this September and raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 and include 90 minutes of free transfers. However, the editorial also backs a motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky to postpone increases that would take effect in 2017 and 2020 as part of the proposal. Excerpt:

So far, so good. But Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky and Mayor Eric Garcetti have made a sensible argument for postponing the vote on the second two fare increases, which were proposed for 2017 and 2020. Instead, they say, a task force of transit experts should be appointed to recommend alternative ways to generate operating revenue. This would offer an opportunity to develop a new revenue model for public transit.

The task force should determine what share of operating costs ought to be covered by riders. Those operating costs are only going to increase as Metro opens new rail lines to Santa Monica and Azusa, and eventually builds the Crenshaw Line, the Westside subway extension and the Downtown Regional Connector. As the network expands, there is a public benefit in keeping fares low to encourage the maximum ridership.

So who should be bearing the burden if not riders? To start, Metro should look at ways to shift some transit system costs onto drivers, which may sound unfair until you consider that they’re getting a heavily subsidized ride on publicly built and maintained roads. If added fees make it less appealing for people to drive, that’s a good thing; fewer cars on the road reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Metro should lobby for higher fuel taxes to fund mass transit, look at expanding tolling or congestion pricing to help pay for bus and rail rides, and charge for Metro parking lots.

Of course, all of the above would likely be equally controversial as the fare increases — and would likely impact more of Metro Board Members’ constituents in a county in which 83 percent of commuters are using cars.

The editorial also says that Metro should “look again at a proposal to impose fees on new building development.” It’s worth noting that such a proposal — after a decade of development — was sent back to the drawing board for more study by the Metro Board in June 2013 by a vote of 8 to 0 (Item 71). Here is an update prepared this month by Metro staff on ongoing discussions with stakeholders. The gist of it: the effort to impose development fees is nowhere close to happening.

L.A. County MTA to vote on bus, train fare increases on Thursday (Los Angeles Newspaper Group) 

A news story on the fare increase proposals. Excerpt:

The 13-member Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board is facing what some say is one of the toughest decisions in its history — raising fares on 500,000 riders of which 80 percent are minorities and poor — or drowning the agency in a sea of red ink.

Without the fare hike, the MTA (Metro) will realize a $36.8 million operating deficit within two years that will grow into $225 million in 10 years, according to Metro staff. Without more revenue, Metro predicts it will have to cut bus and rail service and lay off staff.

If approved, the fare hike is scheduled to take effect in September. It would be the first fare hike in four years, and the MTA noted senior and student fares have not been raised in seven years. MTA’s $1.50 base rate is the lowest in the nation, lower than San Francisco’s Muni and Chicago’s transit system, which both charge $2 a ride (CTA charges $2.25 for trains).

While the fare hike is needed to keep the agency operating budget afloat, the notion is somewhat counterintuitive to analysts who point out that county taxpayers pay for transportation in three separate measures, the latest passed by voters in 2008 that raised sales tax one-half cent and totals raises more than $1 billion a year.


One observation: I’ve yet to see a news story that interviews riders and asks them whether the level of service they get justifies a fare increase. On social media, I think that has been a large part of the discussion and I’ve seen a lot of different views expressed.

Transit fare hike hurts biggest users: editorial (Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

The Los Angeles Newspaper Group’s editorial board also opines on the fare increase proposal, taking a more rider-oriented tack than the LAT’s editorial. Excerpt:

The Los Angeles bus and rail system exists largely for those struggling to make ends meet. About half of those who use it make less than $15,000 a year, according to the system’s rider survey.

These are the people who sweep and mop homes in the San Fernando Valley, work at the back of restaurants on the Westside, and tidy up offices when the other workers have long gone home. They often live far from their jobs and can’t afford to drive.

Raising fares three times over six years, as the 13-member governing board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be asked to do on Thursday, will inevitably hurt these mass-transit-dependent workers and their families even as the agency also attempts to fix long-standing problems like eliminating the need to pay fares twice when transferring from bus to rail or vice versa.

That’s why the editorial board backs a different approach by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky, all MTA board members, that increases some fares but also creates a panel to look at ways to deal with the agency’s growing operating budget deficit and set fees that don’t hurt the most vulnerable.

Their proposal calls for a riders’ advocate, something sorely missing in the agency, a freeze on fare hikes for students and an expansion of a subsidy program for the poorest.

The editorial concludes by arguing that the Garcetti-Ridley-Thomas-Yaroslavsky motion helps bridge the chasm between Metro and the riders it serves.

New Westwood parking initiatives shift into gear (Neon Tommy) 

Talk about an evergreen story. This is the latest in Westwood’s decades-long effort to improve parking in the community — and cut down on the endless circling by motorists trying to find meters near the UCLA campus. The latest initiative involves creating an online interactive map to show parking options.

Westwood is a case study in a neighborhood whose fortunes are tied to traffic. As the Westside’s congestion has worsened in recent years, Westwood has become increasingly isolated from the region because it’s both difficult to reach and difficult to find parking. I think the neighborhood’s best hope is transit — specifically the Purple Line Extension that is scheduled to stop at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards. That’s part of the third phase of the project, which is scheduled to reach Westwood in 2036 unless funds and political will can be found to accelerate the project.

Of course, today’s news of $2 billion plus in federal funding for the Purple Line Extension’s first phase to Wilshire/La Cienega is good news and means that the subway will soon be getting closer to Westwood.


10 replies

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with
    the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me
    from that service? Many thanks!

    • Hi Katrina;

      I’m not sure how to do that — never had to in the past. I’ll give it a try. The bulk of the commenting on this post is likely over.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. @contractor: Why should the mode affect the fare charged? Trains cost less to run overall; one operator can transport FAR more passengers on a six-car subway train than on a 60-foot bus, and trains can last for 40 years. Buses run at Metro for a maximum if 11 years per regulations.

  3. Yes, and I also agree with the commentator above that Metro needs to bite the bullet and start looking at distance based fares. It’s just like the fare evasion mess all over again, keep denying that it’s a big issue and hiding the dirt under the rug until the situation gets too out of control.

    We all know distance based fares is more complex. But you can’t have simplicity and fair in the same context. If simplicity has to be given up in exchange for fairer fares and controlling fare hikes, I’d pick the latter.

  4. Real estate planning and transit go hand in hand.

    What we need is more housing and more mixed used development. We need to revise zoning laws so more cheap multifamily complexes are built close to where the jobs are. When you bring the people to live closer to job centers, the less need there is for people to live and work so far away. The less people live far away, the less need for cars, the more demand for public transit and alternative means of transportation (like biking and walking)

    The entire real estate market in LA is messed up and that’s needs a fixing.

  5. Two obvious things for any task force to consider for future increases (beyond the one proposed for this year).
    1. Charge more for rail rides than bus rides. Since the bulk (although not all of the capital spending) is dedicated to rail construction, doesn’t it make more sense to have more of future fare increases come from rail riders? Moreover, by 2017 the Gold Line extension to Azusa and the Expo Line will both be complete, bringing more rail riders into the system.
    2. Distance-based fares. At some point, Metro is going to have to bit this “third rail” bullet and put this squarely in the discussion. Again, this is far easier to implement with rail riding, especially as more stations become gated, than it is with bus riders, but that’s okay, IMHO.

  6. Hmm. I certainly hope the peak/off-peak proposal would include the 90 minutes of transfers in the off-peak fare (or at least include the option of paying the peak fare during off-peak hours to get the 90 minutes).

    At any rate, it’s still significantly cheaper than the gas needed to drive all the way into Los Angeles from, say, Orange County, even before you figure in parking.

    Day passes would no longer be cost-effective for anything I normally do (in fact, the only thing I can think of that I’ve ever done, where it might still be cost-effective would be watching a space shuttle crawl from LAX to Exposition Park, and how often does THAT happen?) Probably would need 3 90-minute transfers to go to concerts at Disney Hall, since in such cases, I normally dine someplace like Engine Co. No. 28, or the Pantry, or The Counter, or (if it ever reopens) Clifton’s, before catching the Red Line to Civic Center, and that would likely push the trip time (from Wardlow) to well over 90 minutes.

    But for Hollywood Bowl (I normally eat somewhere on Hollywood Blvd, then walk up the hill), or for visits to the museums at Exposition Park, two 90-minute fares would save me a buck and a half on the current price of a day-pass, and even more on either of the proposed day-pass prices.

    I would say that offering a discount fare to those who are demonstrably poor would do much to mitigate the impact on the least fortunate among us.

  7. While the MTA historically carries 85% of the bus passengers in Los Angles County they only receive 65% of tax revenue. The reason always offered is the municipal bus system like Long Beach transit, Santa Monica (Big Blue Bus), etc. cannot maintain their lower fares if they only receive 15% of the tax revenue instead of the 35% they currently receive. In addition the municipals do not provide 24 hour service on any of their lines. It’s time the MTA receive it’s fair share.

  8. The purple line extension to Westwood will help Westwood village ALMOST. as much as the Sepulveda pass LRT would.