Photo by Sarah Bennett
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced last week that it was considering a number of fare-restructuring options that would increase fares, change its current transfer policy and help the bus and rail operator address its mounting operating deficits.
Currently, all Metro rides are $1.50 per one-way ticket, a fee that officials say only covers 26% of the cost of operating the buses and trains. In a report released Friday, Metro asked for the public's input on two options, the first of which calls for a gradual increase in base fare to $1.75 for the next four years with an eventual rise to $2.25 after eight years. A second option incorporates dual pricing for off-peak and peak hour riding with a final base fare of $3.25.
"Metro faces an unsustainable operating deficit of $36.8 million in two years, growing to $225 million in ten years unless changes are made," the report stated. Metro has increased fares only three times in the last 18 years and its rates remain lower than agencies in other large cities such as New York, Chicago, Portland, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
Both restructuring options would eliminate the current transfer policy adopted in 2010, which offers no discount for the approximately half of Metro riders who require more than one route to reach their destination. Riders must spend $1.50 each time they board a bus or train.
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If adopted, a "no-transfer" feature would make it possible for riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for the cost of a single fare.
"We looked at our whole fare structure and said, is this really fair to our riders?" Metro spokesman Marc Littman told the L.A. Times. "We actually penalize our passengers for trying to use the system more efficiently."
The proposed changes would help the agency avoid a budget deficit, which is expected to come as early as 2016 if changes are not made. The earliest that these changes could be approved by the Metro Board of Directors is in May, making the earliest date new fares could go into effect September 1.
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