By City News Service
Bus and train fares could more than double over the next eight years, under a Metro proposal aimed at plugging a $36 million annual gap that was released late Friday.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff released two alternative fare structure proposals, both of which aimed at increasing overall fares in three phases over the next eight years, possibly increasing those fares by as much as 117 percent overall.
One option would boost the base fare from the current $1.50 to $1.75 this year, eventually hiking it to $2.25. Fares for students and the disabled would double, from 55 cents to $1.10.
Day passes would jump from $5 to $9, and a weekly pass would climb from $20 to $32.
The second option would raise the fares to $2.25 during peak hours, but keep the $1.50 base fare during non-peak hours. The peak hour fee would after four years jump to $3.25.
But the current policy of forcing bus riders to pay a separate fee every time they transfer would be eliminated. Metro Chief Executive officer Art Leahy said encouraging free transfers would be a more efficient use of the system, because riders would be able to use transfers to make their trips faster.
More than half of Metro's passengers transfer from one train or bus to another on each one-way trip, Leahy said, meaning savings for many.
The proposed fare system would also allow free round trips if made within 90 minutes, allowing someone to take a bus for a brief visit to a store, and back, for one fare. Passengers would have to employ a reusable TAP card, which costs $1, for such trips because it can keep track of the 90-minute window.
Bus and light rail fares were last raised in 2010 for most passengers.
Members of the Transit Riders' Union assailed the proposals. One, Eric Romann, told the Los Angeles Times the fare increases are "an ongoing civil rights issue."
"The majority of MTA riders are poor and transit-dependent," said union co-chairperson Barbara Lott-Holland in an interview with The Times. "You're asking the poorest of the poor to pay more."
MTA operates 2,228 buses, with about 1.45 million boardings per weekday reported last month. Its rail network includes four light rail lines and two subway lines, with 87 stations.