Time Running Out for BRU to Get Their Fare Hike Hearing, Updated

3_26_20_bru.jpgWhy wouldn’t Villaraigosa want a hearing on fare increases? Photo: Strategy Center/Flickr

(editor’s note: Everyone knows that a guest editorial, such as this one, does not represent an Official View of any particular group, right?  Good. – DN)

As outlined in a Streetsblog post last month ("BRU: No Fare Hikes
Without Public Process
"), the Bus Riders Union has taken a vocal stance
against Metro implementing a previously approved fare increase without
a new public hearing first being held.

Act
II of this drama was played out last Wednesday (March 17th). The Daily
News choose to treat a BRU protest
against fare hikes held that day in
front of the Metro headquarters building as just one
of several protests occurring simultaneously in the region, with its
coverage mostly focused on protests as a symptom of the modern
political culture.

The
article contained no hint that the BRU protest in fact had a specific
motivation. It was in reaction to a Metro staff report on the status of
implementing the aforementioned scheduled fare increase on July 1, 2010
presented that day at the Metro Board Finance and Budget Committee
(agenda item #19

In two
pages this receive and file report outlined the staff’s stance:
"Consistent with federal requirements, both the public hearing held and
the Title VI analysis in May 2007 that showed no findings of
discrimination covered this proposed increase. Therefore, no further
public hearing or Title VI analysis is required to implement this
previously approved fare increase."

By my calculations the
Board would need by the April 22nd Board meeting to pass a motion
directing such a hearing be held, otherwise the agency will commence
public outreach and other actions to facilitate the increase on July
1. Even the Board has over the years had to accept certain structural
limitations on its powers and I think the timeline I have outlined is
one such example.

After their protest a BRU contingent went
inside to attend the Committee meeting and in public comment on the
staff report ask that the Board hold a hearing. To my knowledge they
didn’t make any noises about undertaking legal action. But while I’m no
lawyer I don’t see that the BRU has any legal grounds to press their
demands. All the rules were followed and a vote was taken. You can
never predict what the outcome of a lawsuit would be but initially
prospects of success appear dim (even for an injunction).

Of
course this is also a political process. But here too I would suspect
various factors don’t favor the Board going along with the BRU’s demand.

While
it is true L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa pandered to the BRU in 2007 with an
alternative fare proposal that eventually was rejected by a majority of
the Metro Board, in the intervening years the already eroding
relationship between Villaraigosa and the BRU has probably snapped
(especially in the wake of the BRU’s strident position against passage
of Measure R, the Mayor’s key transportation plank). So I wouldn’t look
for the BRU getting any help from the Mayor or his three Board
appointees.

Further vote calculations involve the murky world
of the interpersonal dynamics of the Metro Board. One thing to remember
is the Board members are well aware of what is in store for them if the
BRU has its way based on what happened in 2007–a long day of an
endless parade of people entreating the Board not to raise fares,
mostly stage managed into a blur of soundbites (the BRU even had some
speakers demanding fare cuts). And after being beaten up the fiscal
realities would still compel the Board to raise fares, only now in the
visible role of villains.

But if the Board goes along with
having the increase happen automatically they avoid all that drama.
From their perspective it is readily apparent why this is an appealing
option.

Looking over the balance of the Metro Board members
sans the city of L.A. contingent, the only two members likely even to
look favorable upon making a motion for such a hearing are either
Supervisor Molina or Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. But even if
either requested the item be placed on the April Board agenda, how
likely would it be to get the 7 votes needed to pass? Slim to none, in
my view. The other Supervisors have a dim view of the BRU and the City
Selection Committee members have mostly a similar mind-set born from
enduring years of BRU protests. Behind the scenes one imagines the
municipal operators see this as a threat to their funding and will add
the weight of their substantial influence to squelch any thoughts of
having a hearing.

The
clock is ticking. We’ll soon know if any new factors come into play or
whether the Metro Board finds its best option is to hang back and let
the previously approved fare increase go into effect.

Update, 11:42 A.M.:Kymberleigh Richards informs me at the Metro Board meeting yesterday
before adjournment Los Angeles Mayor/Second Vice Chair Antonio
Villaraigosa asked that the agenda of the Operations Committee meeting
next month include an item for discussion on the possibility of the
Board holding a public hearing on the fare increase. Note the careful
wording of only seeking a discussion of the idea. I have to imagine
this will draw another BRU protest and contingent providing public
comment at the Committee urging the Board hold a hearing.

Given his roots in left politics this may be a gesture by Villaraigosa
to a constituency to give him the ability to say he made the effort to
have the Board consider the idea.

I’d like to acknowledge Kymberleigh Richards as having first brought
the staff report and BRU comments at the Committee meeting to my
attention. After that, the puzzle pieces starting falling into place. – DG

  • I find it astonishing that the Metro is looking to increase fares, while keeping all that parking around rail stations free. By doing this, Metro choses to subsidize driving, instead of subsizing transit.

    (I realize that isn’t the whole picture – even if Metro charges market prices for all its parking, it’s very unlikely to balance its deficit. There are bigger budget issues at play here – and that’s something that the BRU is drawing attention to. The “free” parking is just the bitter frosting on a bitter cake.)

  • Spokker

    Transit is still heavily subsidized under any scenario.

    “Free” parking encourages people who would otherwise commute many miles to work to park and ride instead, which in and of itself is a worthy goal. They still pay their fare, which helps raise money for transit, even if farebox recovery is only around 30%.

    On the Green Line freeway stations are hard to get to anyway, so why shouldn’t parking be plentiful and “free?” I believe that providing “free” parking at suburban stations helps transit more than it hurts.

  • Spokker

    And keep in mind that the drivers pay taxes, some of which fund transit. So let the bastards park.

  • It’s tempting to let them park free at transit stations, but I think it’s a mistake. Those parking lots entail real costs, both to build and maintain and opportunity costs (what could have been there).

    It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to park a car at a suburban park and ride, but I think it should cost something. There’s value even in leading by example, since free parking is undermining walking, cycling, and transit across the region.

    If we’re being asked to pay 25 cents more on one-way fares, how about a quarter an hour at the parking lot too?

  • Spokker

    Those who park and ride will be paying the extra quarter too.

    Actually, if you want to help transit out, get them to drive all the way to work and burn up gas. When they fill up, they pay taxes that go to transit.

  • If you priced suburban lots some people would pay, some would park creatively nearby, some would use other modes of transportation (like buses) to get to the train and some people would just drive the whole distance (although they’d probably be wasting money, considering that they were willing to take the time to ride transit anyway). The exact effects are tough to predict and they probably depend a lot on the price of parking at both the park and ride and the final destination and the quality of the alternatives to driving in the area.

    I think it’s worth studying. Metro already charges on lots with high demand. Making parking lots self supporting frees up money to make the system better, it just has to be done carefully in places where people are addicted to the free parking subsidy.

  • Spokker

    There’s no need to perform an expensive study. Look outside. Is the lot full? Charge a fee. Is the lot not full? Hold off on a fee.

    “Making parking lots self supporting frees up money to make the system better”

    Hell, you could also make the trains self-supporting to make the system better. But we subsidize it because it’s a public good. I also feel that park and ride lots perform a public good by taking cars off the road (1 mile drive versus a 30 mile drive with a service like Metrolink or something), so I’m not angry that there is free parking for transit commuters.

    In places where spaces are filled up by 8am, charge a fee, of course. I don’t park and ride in LA County but I do park and ride in Orange County, and I will tell you that Fullerton Station users should absolutely be charged a fee to park. However, at a place like Anaheim Station, no fee should ever be imposed since the station is already piggybacking off of Anaheim Stadium’s parking lot and there is never a shortage of spaces for commuters.

    It really depends on each individual case.

  • I guess I can live with that. It just pisses me off that this is the best we can do, you know?

    In my neighborhood you can walk to all sorts of stuff, including lots of frequent transit, and I just think until we can figure out how to build places like that more widely transit isn’t going to have much of a prayer.

    I honestly don’t know what to do about Orange County. It might be very car dependent for a long time. I guess that’s the “American Dream” though. Big yard, cul de sac, bus every hour . . .

    Well, it’s not my dream.

  • Spokker

    It’ll be interesting to see which county ends up better off, LA or Orange County. Each is taking a drastically different approach to transportation.

    Personally, I am moving out of Orange County the second I am able to.

  • Spokker

    I would leave parking up to each individual city though. Don’t put the agency in charge of that. I think that’s how it works with Metrolink.

  • Spokker

    And, and look to Seattle to see what happens when you don’t build park and ride lots. People bitch to no end. That’s why park and rides may be politically popular.

  • Eric B

    Let’s all agree that there should be no shortage of free, secure (indoor) bike parking at rail stations. The new modular Bikestation at the Metrolink stations east of LA (can’t remember which one) is a perfect model of how to expand parking capacity cheaply while reducing physical and carbon footprint.

    If someone is driving less than a few miles to take a train, we should make it easy for them to get on a bike and eliminate the car’s cold-start altogether.

  • Joel C

    LA’s transit fares have been frozen since the mid 1990s. This is largely due to efforts by the BRU, who opposed any fare increase when we could afford it. Now our fares ($1.25/trip) are among the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, operating costs have continued to increase over the 15 years, due to inflation.

    Metro needs to raise fares. $1.50/trip is very modest. I’m not wild about the huge increases on the passes. (I’d rather see the fare increases a bit more balanced a bit more toward single trips.) But either way, the budget shortfall is very real, and without new farebox revenues, lines will have to be cut.

    I might agree that a public meeting should be held. Transparency is usually a good thing. However, I wholeheartedly support a reasonable fare increase.

  • Staff have produced a report for this month’s Operations Committee meeting per the request of Metro Board member Villaraigosa

    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2010/04_April/20100415OPItem50.pdf

    The BRU are putting a big push behind the fare hearing demand–I have seen color large sized posters (English and Spanish versions) pasted on traffic signal control boxes along Wilshire in the last few days by the BRU exorting against the increase

    http://www.thestrategycenter.org/blog/2010/03/29/surprise-move-mayor-reaches-out-bru-public-hearing

  • There is a proposal for a Special Board meeting, but mostly of an informational nature.
    http://thesource.metro.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/FareMotioin.jpg

    Far short of what the BRU demanded but still a platform for them to roll out their usual grandstanding pushing their DOA “Plan” and plank of rediculous demands.

    http://www.thestrategycenter.org/campaign/clean-air-and-economic-justice-plan-measure-r

    BTW, if this meeting is held SO.CA.TA will seek time equal to the BRU. But instead of empty rhetoric we’ll raise key concerns, structural and policy-oriented. It is an opportunity to publicly hold the Board accountable regarding real problems that need addressed. This is being productive versus the BRU approach which has been less and less effective over the past few years. Even Metro gadfly John Walsh at a Board Commoittee meeting this week chided that while the BRU once prided themselves on being disruptive and often dragged out of Metro meetings under arrest, all they do now is chant and whine.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

BRU: No Fare Hikes Without Public Process

|
Image of "Times": Strategy Center/Flickr Earlier this morning, the Bus Rider’s Union rallied at the Wilshire/Western Transit Station to urge the Metro Board to not go forward with planned fare hikes for Metro bus and rail services until a full public hearing schedule is announced and executed. In May of 2007, the Metro Board adopted […]

Momentum Building Against Metro Fare Hikes Scheduled for July 1

|
Photo via the Bus Riders Union Yesterday, the Bus Riders Union rallied in front of City Hall with representatives from CalPIRG, the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, the National Resources Defense Council, the Clean Air Coalition and Transportation for America Campaign as part of a day of activism against fare increases and service cuts for […]

Metro Board and BRU on Collision Course?

|
Photo: Corey Moore/KPCC Looking over the agenda for the Metro Board meeting Thursday I see no sign of any items being included relating to the impending fare increase and/or the holding of any public hearings to consider a delay or rescinding of same. I’m sure many of you are aware the Bus Riders Union has […]

This Post Brought to You By the Number 33

|
One BRU Member, with the help of a translator, slams fare policy plan While the two issues covered below may dominate the coverage of today’s meeting, the most important story of the day was the somewhat schizophrenic behavior by the Board when it comes to their long-term budget issues and fare policies. First, the Board […]

Metrolink Next Up for Fare Hikes

|
Last Friday, Metrolink announced plans to raise fares and cut service effective on July 1. Wait a second, you might be thinking, Metrolink announced these hikes over a year ago. True, but these fare hikes are in addition to the ones passed in 2007. From Metrolink’s press release: Because of the escalating cost of diesel […]