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Metrolink commuter fares could go up

Action by SoCal MTA system helps drive the request for higher fares, according to Metrolink

Posted: April 22, 2009 10:16 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The board that oversees Metrolink will vote on whether to strap riders with a 4.5-percent fare increase on Friday.

Commuters who rely on Metrolink for transportation could soon be faced with an increase in fares.

The board that oversees Metrolink will vote on whether to strap riders with a 4.5-percent fare increase on Friday.

If approved by the Southern California Regional Railroad Agency, the fare hike would drive the cost of a monthly commuter pass from Santa Clarita Station to Union Station from $211.25 to $222.50. The increased revenue will offset the cost of transfers from Metrolink trains to all of the Los Angeles County transit operators, said Francisco Oaxaca, Metrolink spokesman.

It also will help pay for the rising cost to operate Metrolink, he said.

"In the past, Metrolink passengers could use passes to transfer to any other transit system at no cost to the riders," Oaxaca said. But that didn't mean that the transfer rides were free of charge.

Every three months county transit systems send Metrolink a bill for the transferred passenger-rides, he said. Metrolink budgeted $6.4 million to pay for transfers in fiscal year 2008-09 and will come close to spending that amount, Oaxaca said.

With Los Angeles County transit operators agreeing to raise transfer fares by 60 percent, the free rides may be over, Oaxaca said. In the future, Metrolink riders could pay 30 percent of the transfer cost to ride buses and light rail throughout L.A. County, Oaxaca said.

The other 70 percent still falls on commuters in the form of the 4.5-percent fare increase, said Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. Bell blames the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which he said tossed its weight around to drive through the transfer-fare increase.

"In the sense that they are the largest player, they (the MTA) do have the greatest influence," Oaxaca said.
The MTA influence tips the balance of power in regional transit planning in favor of the city of Los Angeles and often leaves the suburban commuter stuck with the bill, Bell said.

"This is routine. The city of Los Angeles and its four reps on the MTA board walk lock-step with the mayor," Bell said. "It's like a poker game with one player holding four aces."

Additionally, the MTA and other Los Angeles County transit agencies are burdening Metrolink with complications and extra costs, Oaxaca said.

These include a transit-access-pass system that replaced paper tickets with reusable plastic cards that are scanned a deduct money charged to the cards, said David Sotero, MTA spokesman. The same technology is scheduled to come to light rail by early 2010, he said.

In the same time period, Metrolink will give free transit-access-pass cards to its 10-trip and monthly-pass customers and will add transit-access-pass dispensers at some of its high-passenger-volume stations, Oaxaca said.

Metrolink will absorb the cost of the machines and of giving out the free cards, Oaxaca said. The price of the program has not been determined, he said.

The Metrolink board meets 10 a.m. on Friday at 818 West 7th Street Los Angeles on 12th floor in the San Bernadino Conference Room.


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