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Posts from the "Fare Hikes" Category

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Metro Fare Increase Postponed, Will Take Effect September 15th

New Metro fares effective September 15 2014. Image from Metro Briefing Document

New Metro fares effective September 15 2014 – page 1 of 2. Image from Metro Briefing Document

In a change that’s more procedural than policy-driven, Metro has slightly postponed its fare increase that had been approved for September 1. The new fares will take effect on Monday, September 15th.

The fare increase was approved at Metro’s May board meeting. Base bus/train fare will increase 17 percent, going from $1.50 to $1.75. Senior fares and all daily/monthly/weekly passes also increase 25-40 percent. With the new fares, Metro is instituting a new 2-hour free transfer window, though it only applies to customers paying via TAP card.

The new September 15th implementation date has not been publicized yet – though Metro will be getting the word out widely by mid-August. Streetsblog learned of it via this Metro briefing document which was publicized by Twitter user @Calwatch.

Metro spokesperson Rick Jager confirmed the new date, and explained the change as follows: Read more…

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Metro Approves 25 Cent Base Fare Increase To $1.75 In September 2014

Fight For the Soul of the Cities demonstrators circle in front, before today's Metro board meeting. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Fight For the Soul of the Cities demonstrators circle in front, before today’s Metro board meeting. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Just over four hours into its marathon monthly board meeting, the Metro Board of Directors approved its much debated fare increase. Metro’s base transit fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 in September 2014. Weekly and monthly passes, and senior and disabled fares will also undergo similar increases. The fare increase motion passed with twelve in favor. County Supervisor Gloria Molina was the only board member voting opposed.

A few of the most painful impacts of the fare increase were mitigated by the Garcetti-Yaroslavsky-Ridley-Thomas amendment motion, which also passed in an amended form.

As has been the case during past fare increase debates, there was a long series of public speakers against increasing fares. Roughly one hundred speakers – students, seniors, parents, workers – urged the board not to balance its budget on the backs of the poor. Opposition was organized by the Bus Riders Union (BRU) and Fight For the Soul of the Cities (FFSC.) These groups made it clear that they did not support the small improvements in the amendment motion, but saw these as an attempt, in the words of BRU’s Barbara Lott-Holland, to  ”create a wedge” splitting the opposition.

County Supervisor Molina was the lone board member to ally herself with the public opposition the fare increase. Molina proposed that the fare increase be deferred, and that Metro staff instead be tasked with finding a “one and one-half percent” cut to the operations budget. Molina’s motion failed, unable to secure support from a second board member. Mayor Garcetti offered to incorporate direction to staff to report back on operations budget trimming, but that report back ultimately was not included.

Read more…

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County Education Coordinating Council Calls for Free Metro Student Pass

Cover of the ECC report The XXX Costs and Benefits of Providing Free Public Transportation Passes to Students in Los Angeles County. Full report posted here, summary sheet here.

Cover of the 2013 report The Potential Costs and Benefits of Providing Free Public Transportation Passes to Students in Los Angeles County. Click for full report [pdf] or summary sheet [pdf]

Tomorrow, the Metro Board is voting on fare increases. Under the Metro staff recommendation, Metro’s base transit fare would go from $1.50 to $1.75 in 2014. That’s a 17% increase. Metro’s student fare would go from $1 to $1.25 in 2014. That’s a 25% increase.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a fare increase companion motion would temporarily freeze student fares at their current levels.

The Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council (ECC) is urging things to go in a different direction. The ECC is calling for “free Metro passes for all students, from pre-school to college.”

The County Education Coordinating Council was formed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2004. The council is chaired by School Board Member Monica Garcia and Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash. ECC is charged with removing barriers to educational achievement, primarily for foster youth and youth in the probation system.

One key focus for the ECC is attendance. The more students that attend school, the better the outcomes for both students and schools. In 2010, the ECC formed its School Attendance Task Force (SATF,) from which the free student fare recommendations emerged.

In early 2013, at the urging of community groups including Youth Justice Coalition, Community Rights Campaign, Children’s Defense Fund and the Violence Prevention Coalition, the ECC adopted a resolution [pdf] favoring free student passes. The ECC cites three primary reasons for favoring free student passes:

  • Provide students with a reliable, affordable way to get to school;
  • Prevent students from receiving fare evasion citations; and
  • Allow schools to redirect resources currently devoted to transportation toward educational services.

Fare evasion deserves some additional explanation. According to County Probation data [pdf], fare evasion accounts for an unexpectedly large share of L.A. County Sheriff juvenile citations. In FY2012-13, fare evasion accounted for 27.7% of all youth citations, more than vandalism, theft, alcohol, graffiti, etc. Fare evasion acts as a sort of gateway drug, bringing youth into a vicious spiral of interactions with the criminal justice system. Citations lead to fines and court appearances, which, if not addressed, can lead to warrants, arrests, and incarceration. According to ECC, a “first-time court appearance during high school quadruples a student’s odds of dropping out.” Fare evasion citations occur predominantly on Metro rail as compared to Metro bus; they appear to be an unintended consequence of Metro’s rail system expansion.

In late 2013, the ECC Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) released its report The Potential Costs and Benefits of Providing Free Public Transportation Passes to Students in Los Angeles County. The report [pdf] and a 2-page summary [pdf] are available online.  Read more…

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Metro Fare Increase Modification Motion by Garcetti, Zev, and MRT

Under the proposed Metro board motion, student transit fares would be temporarily frozen at current levels, instead of increased per Metro staff proposal. Image: Metro website

Under the proposed Garcetti motion, student transit fares would be temporarily frozen at current levels, instead of increased per Metro staff proposal. Image: Metro website

Just when it looked like this Thursday’s Metro board meeting would just see its high-stakes up-or-down vote on proposed fare increases, a new wrinkle emerges: a new Metro board motion [pdf] by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas. The bottom line on the motion is that a 25-cent fare increase would go forward for September 2014, but with some relatively positive strings attached.

From the way the new motion is written, it’s not procedurally an alternative to the fare increase, but instead a sort of tag-along modification that comes after fare increases. The Garcetti-Yaroslavsky-Ridley-Thomas motion more or less assumes that the fare increase gets approved. While there are worthwhile modifications in the motion (see below), the implication here is that the fare increase itself appears likely to pass, given that the mayor controls four Metro board votes and the two other sponsors are likely to vote for it as well.

Here are excerpts from the motion, with SBLA analysis and commentary interspersed.

The preamble section of the motion emphasizes three issues:

  1. Minimizing the ways that fare increases “hurt … Los Angeles County’s working poor”
  2. Minimizing the “criminalization of fare evasion amongst youth riders”
  3. Ensuring that Metro staff give the Metro board “a range of options, with quality analysis and modeling” in order to get “fare structures [that] optimize ridership” including a need for “outside expertise” and a “Rider’s Advocate” within Metro. This analysis would include:

• Evaluating the efficacy of merging the 30-day pass with the EZ Pass;
• Modifying fare increases for the 7-day and 30-day passes in order to mitigate impacts on low-income riders;
• Charging for parking at MTA stations;
• Evaluating opportunities to create additional operational cost savings and new revenue opportunities;
• Developing multi-day passes to encourage tourists to use the public transit system; and
• Adjusting MTA fares annually consistent with the Consumer Price Index instead of stand-alone fare increases.

Though there are some non-binding wiggle-words like “should,” the preamble generally comes down on the side of livability, equity, and organizational efficiency.

That’s just the preamble, though; now on to the binding actions in the motion:

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.

Hmmm. What is the Metro “Fare Subsidy Program?”  Read more…

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L.A. Clergy Speak and Pray Against Proposed Metro Fare Increase

Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez, of Churches for Action, prays for Metro board officials to  have hearts of compassion in opposition to Metro's proposed fare increase. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez (center, with microphone), of Churches for Action, prays for Metro board officials to have hearts of compassion in opposition to Metro’s proposed fare increase. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

At its regular monthly meeting this Thursday, May 22nd, 2014, the Metro board of directors will vote on its proposed fare increase. If approved, bus and rail base fare will increase 25 cents in September, and will continue to rise automatically in years ahead.

Today, a handful of pastors, surrounded by supporters from Fight for the Soul of the Cities, assembled at the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. Latino and African-American, speaking in English and Spanish, the clergy drew attention to the injustice of balancing Metro budgets on the backs of poor. They called on elected leaders, especially Mayor Eric Garcetti and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to “be more conscious of the needs of the community” by rejecting Metro’s fare hike. They also called for ending Metro’s “stop and frisk” practices that “criminalize young people.”

At the conclusion of the press event, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez led a prayer urging God to give L.A.’s elected leaders “heart of compassion, and hearts of flesh.”  Read more…

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Metro Memo Quietly Responds to Board and Public Fare Increase Concerns

Dana Gabbard testifying before the Metro Board fare restructuring hearing in March 2014. Photo: Metro's The Source

Dana Gabbard testifying before the Metro Board fare restructuring hearing in March 2014. Photo: Steve Hymon via Metro’s The Source

On March 29th, Metro held a public hearing on its proposal to restructure fares. At that meeting, I presented the position of Southern California Transit Advocates.

Among other stakeholders at the March 29th hearing was the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee, represented by its co-chair Darrell Clarke. He pointedly asked why Metro would raise fares while continuing to have mostly free parking at its rail stations and park and ride lots, a question that this blog has also raised.

Toward the conclusion of the hearing, several Metro board members posed questions of their own. Metro CEO Art Leahy responded, and promised to have agency staff research and provide written responses in “a week to 10 days”  (Meeting Audio File at 4:15:50).

I recently submitted a request to Metro’s Records Management Department to obtain a copy of the response which I thought likely had been distributed directly to the board members as a “board box” communication. I soon discovered it was only this past Friday, May 9th, that the memo titled Response to Inquiries From March 29 2014 Public Hearing (Fare Restructuring) was belatedly ready for distribution.  Read more…

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Editorial: Why Raise Fares When Metro’s Building Even More Free Parking?

Foothill Gold Line's Azusa-Alameda Station not-so-innovative site plan - 200 more parking spaces coming on line next year. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

Foothill Gold Line’s Azusa-Alameda Station site plan means 200 more surface parking spaces due to open in 2015. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an editorial asking Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking? At the time, I totaled parking for Metro’s BRT and rail lines at 19,450 parking spaces. Despite Metro’s plan to increase transit fares, the agency has no plan to increase parking charges. Metro gives more than 9 out of 10 spaces away for free. I did a conservative estimate of Metro’s parking revenue potential to be at least $3.5 million per year.

Turns out that it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.

Metro’s building lots and lots of lots.

There are 2,435 more Metro parking spaces under construction. When the Gold Line Foothill extension opens in 2015, Metro will break the 20,000 mark with 1,525 new parking spaces. Also in 2015, Expo phase 2 will add 580 new parking spaces. In 2019, the Crenshaw Line will add 330 new parking spaces.

Metro’s overall total rail/BRT parking spaces will climb to 21,885. Using the same very conservative assumptions, I estimate that, with the additional spaces, Metro’s parking revenue potential will be at least $4.3 million per year.

After the earlier article, via Twitter and via the Source, Metro responded with the “doesn’t go far enough” argument:

Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

I’ve always found this sort of assertion to be disingenuous. It’s sort of like being in a boat that’s leaking in five places, and refusing to fix one hole, because it doesn’t fix all of them at once.

Read more…

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Opposition and Confrontation at Metro Fare Increase Hearing

Citing "disruptive behavior" for prolonged public comment, uniformed officers removed two people from Metro's fare increase hearing.  photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

Citing “disruptive behavior,” uniformed officers removed two people from last Saturday’s Metro fare increase hearing. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

On Saturday, Metro held a public hearing on proposed changes to its fare policy. Metro is proposing to raise its $1.50 base transit fare to $1.75 starting September 2014. From there, it would be raised again to $2.00 in 2017, and to $2.25 in 2020. This would include a 90-minute free transfer, but only when the fare is paid using a TAP card.

Metro’s passes would go up similarly. Day passes, currently $5, would cost $7/$8/$9. , Weekly passes, currently $20, would cost $25/$30/$32. Monthly passes, currently $75, would cost $100, then, combined with EZ pass, $120/$135. The Metro proposal includes two options: a straight-up increase, or an increase that splits the increase into two categories: a more expensive peak-commuter-hour fare and a cheaper off-peak fare. More fare increase proposal details at the Metro website.

As one might expect, the hearing was a heated one.

Security was higher than usual. In addition to uniformed armed officers and police dogs, attendees had to pass through a metal detector and allow officers to search bags. The board room was full by the time the 9:30 a.m. meeting started, with late arrivals shunted to the Metro cafeteria to watch proceedings on screens. 

For the most part, public commenters, from youth to seniors, urged Metro not to raise fares, primarily for personal economic reasons. One student’s summed it up the feelings of many commenters: “I count on the buses, please don’t gouge us.”

Many groups expressed opposition, but the most prominent among them was the Bus Riders Union. BRU head Eric Mann called on Metro directors to reject the proposed increase, and to enact an immediate 10 percent reduction in fares. Mann also called for an independent audit of Metro finances to determine where past bond measure funding may have been inappropriately redirected to rail construction.

A few individuals and organizations, primarily those interested in seeing expanding Metro rail service, testified in favor of reasonable fare increases, but requested some modifications to the staff’s proposal. These modifications included increasing the transfer window to two hours, making TAP cards more useful, and increasing other Metro revenue from advertising, parking, etc to offset the fare increase.

Read more…

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Editorial: Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking?

Metro's La Cienega Expo Line Station parking lot: 476 spaces, all free, all the time

Metro’s Culver City Expo Line Station parking lot: 586 spaces, free for drivers who get there early enough, but not free for Metro to build, operate, and maintain. Metro is proposing to raise rider fares, while continuing to let cars park for free. Photo Eric Bruins

Metro is proposing to increase, or restructure, its $1.50 base transit fare to $1.75 later this year, with further increases planned in 2017 and 2020. Metro anticipates that this will increase its fare recovery – the percentage of operations costs that are paid for by fare revenues – from 25 percent to 33 percent. Metro foresees that this fare increase will “deflect” riders; a small percentage of people who currently take Metro will opt not to ride.

Officially, Streetsblog Los Angeles neither supports nor opposes Metro’s proposed fare increase. We hold that robust transit service is needed, and that fares need to be affordable, and that those two important ends can be in conflict. When inflation drives operating costs up, at some point, it can make sense for agencies to increase what they charge for what they provide. Reasonable fare increases are generally preferable to significant service cuts.

I am not going to wade into all the issues in the fare increase, but want to explore another revenue source that Metro doesn’t seem to be paying attention to: parking.

Metro has large amounts of parking that it gives away for free. For more than 90% of the spaces it owns, Metro’s parking “fare recovery” is zero percent. Parking revenue isn’t likely to cover the entire operating deficit Metro is asserting, but it can amount to millions of dollars, enough to delay or soften fare increases.

Charging for parking will also deflect a small number of the riders who drive (driver-riders are a small percentage of Metro’s overall ridership – fewer than 10 percent), but, if revenue is used to offset fare increases, parking charges should lessen overall deflection. In some cases, charging for parking and keeping transit fares reasonable could deflect some drivers out of their cars and on to buses, carpools, bikes, and walking.

I recently attended a meeting where Metro staff presented their fare increase proposal. When I asked if Metro was also looking at parking revenue, Metro’s presenter responded that Metro didn’t have much parking, and that it fills up quickly anyway – as if that meant there wasn’t anything that could be done. On the contrary, this high demand shows that Metro’s parking is a revenue opportunity. The Transit Coalition’s Bart Reed confirms that “[Metro Red Line] parking for free is gone by 7 a.m. in the valley.” Streetsblog’s Damien Newton states that, at “Culver City [Expo Station] after morning rush hour, I generally see people cruising for parking. There’s no space.”

What’s wrong with free parking? Isn’t that good?

Read more…

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Thoughts on Metro’s Fare Restructuring

(I want to be explicit this is solely my own opinion, and in no way endorsed by either Streetsblog or Southern California Transit Advocates – DG
But I can’t help notice that So.CA.TA. has a special meeting just to discuss the changes this Saturday. – DN)

300px-TAP_CARD_001Metro staff recently released two options for fare restructuring that as Steve Hymon notes “would raise fares in three phases over the next eight years while also making Metro more customer-friendly by allowing riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for a single fare.”

This has garnered coverage in the media and the blogsphere. I agree with the comment DTLA Star made on LA Curbed “Metro has proposed this plan knowing full well that much of the less popular items will be stripped out after public comment”.

In 2007, Metro had an all day hearing on restructuring fares. I actually took a day off from work to attend, along with my fellow transit advocate the late Woody Rosner. When it was over we took the Red Line and Hollywood DASH to have dinner at the since shuttered Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset. Woody’s quip was the dinner was the only useful thing we did that day.

Electeds and stakeholders made presentations. Then the many transit users that signed up to speak were given 60 seconds in which to make comments. Like many activists I had worked up my own proposal. Plus I had agreed to present a consensus position that the membership of Southern California Transit Advocates had agreed to after a lengthy study session.

You can imagine how well I did trying to convey two separate proposals in 1 minute.

I had neglected to ask for a block of time for the group. But given how things played out it was no great loss. I discerned as I watched the Metro Board have a discussion after the hearing closed that the main dynamic was opposition to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal, driven basically by a desire to deny him a political prize. It was clear his admittedly often showboating style had irritated the rest of the Metro Board and there was a desire to take him down a peg or two.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina produced an alternative to Villaraigosa’s proposal based on keeping the fare at $1.25 for the time being. It easily was adopted despite the opposition of the Mayor and his three appointees on the Metro Board. Yes, indeed, I had a front row seat (actually one in the far back of the Metro Board meeting room) to history in the making — politics of the classic sausage making variety which isn’t pretty to watch.

So you may wonder where I stand on the current “options” offered up by Metro staff and the upcoming hearing scheduled for March 29th.

Meh. Read more…