Times: Metro Should Raise Fares

1_26_10_bus_stop.jpgThe Times wants to raise fares on transit riders. Photo: Pgsvenk/Flickr

In today's Los Angeles Times, the local paper of record follows up on this weekend's look at Metro's operational funding crisis with an editorial urging the Metro Board to increase fares to help close the agency's roughly quarter of a billion annual deficit for 2011.

To be fair, the editorial strikes a lot of the right notes.  It does talk about the Metro's relatively low farebox recovery ration, the major problems with the state's yearly grab of operating funds, and the pain felt by all Angelenos if transit riders feel forced into their cars for their commutes or other trips currently made by transit.  But, the only solution offered for fixing the $250 billion deficit is fare increases.  From the editorial:

In most big U.S. cities, it costs at least $2 to ride the bus, and big-city transit agencies typically make enough from fares to cover about 40% of their operating expenses. In L.A. a one-way ride costs $1.25, and fares cover only about 26% of the MTA's expenses. The fare will jump to $1.50 in July, but that still won't be enough to make up for the budget shortfall. One solution would be to impose an annual schedule of hikes to put fares in line with other cities and allow them to keep up with inflation. Ridership would probably fall in the short term, but such fare-based plunges seldom last long; moreover, L.A. bus and rail riders are going to have to pay their fair share of the costs if they want to avoid deep cuts in service.

But, the editorial also misses on a lot of points.  First, it doesn't mention the riders for whom a fare increase won't mean going back to their car, but will mean less food on the table or more debt.  As is often pointed out in the Streetsblog comments section, Los Angeles has a sizeable population that is transit dependent, and they shouldn't be excluded from the discussion when the impacts of fare increases are discussed.

Second, the only politician mentioned by name is Antonio Villaraigosa.  The Mayor takes a shot for putting his capital behind the Subway to the Sea but not fixing Metro's operating funding issues.  This seems an odd target, because over sixty percent of Metro's deficit is caused by the state's transit raids, ruled illegal by the State Supreme Court, that there is a push to continue this year.  The Mayor may have a lot of pull, but the name of the person who could do the most to fix Metro's problem is another Angeleno.  Unfortunately, this one commutes by jet to Sacramento, so he doesn't have to worry about the trains running on time.