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 approved releasing Metro’s long range plan for public comment. A final draft will be ready for release in mid-March for public comment. The final plan could be voted on as early as the June Board Meeting.
So, what’s the problem? Metro’s plan counts on a farebox recovery ratio, meaning the total cost of the trip that is paid for by the rider, of 33%. Currently, even after the recent fare hike, Metro is "recovering" 28% of the cost of each trip. To cover that gap, Metro would have to increase fares at least as much as they did in the most recent fare increase.
While opening up the plan for public comment was relatively uncontroversial, except for a coalition of government officials lobbying for inclusion of the I-710 Tunnel Project
; a plan to adopt a fare policy based on reaching the same 33% fare box recovery ratio was met with stern opposition. This policy would lead to fare hikes by 2010 and was proposed response to projected operating deficits far into the future.
16 speakers of all races, classes and genders strode to the podium to denounce the plan, claiming that it was everything from an assault on civil rights to a perversion of the public process. BRU activist Manuel Criollo claimed that any plan that would increase bus fares was especially repugnant after a presentation of a "long range plan that reads like Disney Land" for more well off communities such as Santa Monica and Marina del Rey.
Ultimately, the Board put off voting on the new fare policy for another month so staff could remove or modify the language that would force the board to increase fares by 2010. The decision to put off the vote didn’t sit well with Board Chair Pam O’Connor who said noted that passing a fare plan with a firm recovery ratio will take the surprise out of fare hikes. "We’re going to have to deal with this (projected operating deficits) sometime."