Friday, April 20, 2007

MTA Bus Fare Hike Sucks!


I should preface this by saying that I am not a member of the BRU. I am also not an expert on the policies of Los Angeles public transit agencies or the inner-workings of the MTA, but I will say that I spent several years working on public transportation projects in the Northwest and transit is an issue I continue to care about. Working on light rail/monorail projects in the NW I learned a valuable lesson: public transportation never pays for itself. It's always subsidized one way or another. However, when you calculate the cost to taxpayers of roads and highways (and all the accompanying costs from maintenance, to pollution, to highway patrol etc...) the costs start to bear out quickly in favor of public transit. That's not even taking into account the tremendous value to the economy that buses and trains provide by getting people to work and to school efficiently. Kind of like PUBLIC schools, PUBLIC parks, PUBLIC transit provides a service. Metro CEO Richard Snoble says: “We can’t sustain these massive subsidies,” Snoble said. “Either we raise fares or cut service. We simply can not operate the existing service let alone offer the public new transit improvements.” Wow so there are only two options? Raise fares or cut service? There's NO other way to fund public transit? Can't we be more creative? Especially in a city where air pollution and traffic are two of the top quality of life concerns.

I also think it's backwards for CEO Snoble to argue that higher demand means costs should go up. Rising demand means that people need buses and by raising fares, many people will struggle to afford them. “It is indeed unfortunate that at a time of such high transit demand due to continued population and job growth and the rising cost of all modes of transportation that Metro will not be in a position to serve the demand without additional revenue,” said Snoble.

Furthermore, Metro argues that the cost of transit in other major cities is higher "New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego and other cities currently charge $2 or more". Well we can all be selective about what we mean by other major cities. You could argue that Boston, San Francisco and Seattle are major cities too and compare: a month pass for the City of Seattle is $54/month, in San Francisco you can get a Fast Pass for $45/month and you can travel unlimited on subway and local buses in Boston for $59/month. So let's be honest, just because some cities charge more for public transit, than we do, some don't and I don't think we need to emulate cities that have expensive public transit. One final note on this subject, I've spent time riding the subway in NYC and one thing I am sure of, the MTA buses have a lot of work to do to catch up to that level of service so lets compare apples to apples.


It also concerns me that many bus riders are part of a low-wage workforce that relies on public transportation because the cost of owning and maintaining a car is so high. What happens to our economy if workers, students and the elderly can no longer get to work, school or medical appointments? How do you calculate the cost of that to taxpayers?

Consider this scenario, a young person without a lot of money takes the bus to work every day because he can't really afford a car. Then his bus pass goes from $52/month to $120/ month and he decides that driving a car might not that much more expensive after all. So he buys a cheap car and starts driving to work. It's cheaper! He only pays $60/month to fill it up and it's running fine. But he doesn't carry car insurance because that's still a little steep. Then he gets in an accident. With no car insurance. Now what's the cost to the public, to the taxpayers?

Or how about this: more cars on the road in LA period. I don't even have to elaborate about why that's a disaster for this city. Buses are a critical part of keeping fewer cars on the road and transporting people to their jobs, doctors and schools. And it's not just any people, part of what BRU is doing is proving that bus riders are disproportionately minorities, youth and the elderly. This fare hike will hit LA's most vulnerable the hardest.

Here's how the fare hike breaks out for "regular" riders:

Regular

Last Change

Current

Proposed

7/1/07

Proposed 1/1/09

Cash

2004

$1.25

$1.25

$2.00

Token

2004

$1.10

$1.25

$2.00

Day Pass

2004

$3.00

$5.00

$8.00

Weekly

2004

$14.00

$20.00

$32.00

Semi-monthly

2004

$27.00

Eliminate

Eliminate

Month

2004

$52.00

$75.00

$120.00

EZ transit pass

2002

$58.00

$95.00

$140.00



The month pass is increased by 130%!

Here's how it breaks out for "senior/disabled/medicare":

Senior/Disabled/

Medicare

Last Change

Current

Proposed

7/1/07

Proposed 1/1/09

Cash

1995

$0.45

$0.60

$1.00

Zone 1

2004

$0.25

$0.40

$0.65

Zone 2

2004

$0.50

$0.80

$1.30

Day Pass

2004

$1.50

$2.50

$4.00

Monthly

1995

$12.00

$37.50

$60.00

EZ transit pass

2002

$29.00

$47.50

$70.00

Monthly premium each zone

1988

$7.50

$12.00

$19.50

Metro to Muni Transfer

1988

$0.10

$0.25

$0.50


For the elderly and the folks on medicare it's a 400% increase!

I cannot for the life of me understand how MTA thinks LA's poorest communities can accommodate these incredible increases.

The BRU in their letter to MTA Chair Gloria Molina note that 18% of families in LA City and 14% of families in LA County live below the Federal Poverty Level which in January of 2007 was set at $20,650 for a family of 4. That works out to $1,720.83 a month (pre-tax) and for just two adults to purchase a monthly pass the cost goes from $104 a month to $240 a month. When you are raising a family and trying to pay rent and make ends meet the $136 difference could go a long way toward food, bills and medical costs.


I live in LA. I drive a car to work. I don't need the buses personally. But Il think the MTA fare hike is outrageous and an embarrassment to our Mayor if he doesn't block it.

2 comments:

caliguana said...

Please don't just send email to be the MTA email address. They take all the comments and compile them into a summary, but your indnvidual ideas will be lost. CALL all of the MTA board members yourself about the fare increase. http://www.busridersunion.org/engli/Campaigns/consentdecree/MTA%20Board%20Members.html If they refuse to take comments about it, politely insist that they do so since you are their constituents.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Metro staff are reading blog posts such as this, and all emails sent to fares@metro.net will be forwarded in their entirety, as part of the official public record, to the Board of Directors.