LA Metro’s new fare plan caps rider costs, but some say it’s mostly a fare hike

Critics are pushing back against a sweeping LA Metro fare restructuring proposal that would eliminate discount passes and free internal transfers, raise the price of a bus or train ride by 25 cents, and institute a pay-as-you-go system that caps the cost for frequent riders.

Touted as a fare-capping plan by Metro officials, it is a simpler approach that will mean lower costs for those who normally buy $7 daily passes and $25 weekly passes. Buying a pass would not be necessary because a rider would get free unlimited rides after they reached a fare cap of  $6 a day or $20 a week.

But the proposal is being criticized by leaders of groups who work with low-income riders, and by a state-created LA Metro oversight council whose chairman wrote to the Metro board saying fare restructuring should be postponed until it has been thoroughly vetted by the public and board members.

The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the fares Dec. 1 and is holding a virtual public hearing on the proposed changes at 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14.

To participate, the public can visit or at the time and day of the hearing to get the link to the live event. Written comments can be emailed to, or mailed to Metro Board Clerk, RE: Public Hearing on Metro Fare Changes, 1 Gateway Plaza, 99-3-1, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The Nov. 7 letter signed by Hank Fung, chair of the Metro Community Advisory Council, said the advisory council was not presented the new fares, which should have happened.

Fung wants the Metro Board of Directors to postpone the vote until after the advisory council evaluates the program — and also after the Metro Board installs expected new members. The next mayor of Los Angeles will join the 13-member board, as will members appointed by the mayor. And a new L.A. County supervisor will join the board, elected by voters on Nov. 8 but has not yet determined as vote-counting continues. That person would replace the departing Metro board member Sheila Kuehl.

But the races for L.A. mayor and county supervisor are so close that the outcomes may not be known until December, after the currently scheduled vote on the new fare approach.

The Metro Community Advisory Council chairman wants Metro to hold more than one public hearing before voting, citing “serious concerns about various unexamined aspects of the proposal which are far from simple, and which will adversely impact a substantial portion of Metro’s riders.”

A woman and child wait to catch the Metro B (Red) Line train in Los Angeles on Tuesday, November 1, 2022. According to a Metro survey fewer females are riding transit. And now, cost per ride may rise while a new fare-capping system is considered. Tune in to a virtual public meeting on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022 at 5 p.m. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Some of the concerns raised by the Metro Community Advisory Council chairman and others are:

• Raising the basic fare from $1.75 to $2 would penalize occasional riders.

• Eliminating weekly passes and the free 2-hour, one-way transfer raises fare costs.

• Raising the fare for senior and disabled riders, now at $0.35 for off-peak, and $0.75 for peak, to a flat $1 per ride burdens seniors on fixed incomes.

• Riders who pay with cash, which some estimate make up 20% of Metro’s riders, won’t get fare capping benefits

Fung wrote that Metro should reconsider eliminating the free, 2-hour, one-way transfer, which allows a rider to go from one train or one bus to another for the base fare. Under the new plan, the rider must pay for each ride.

For example, Fung wrote that a rider taking the new K Line from Leimert Park to Downtown L.A. now pays $1.75, the base fare, with a free transfer to the E (Expo) Line. Under the new plan, that rider would pay $4 for a one-way trip.

On a round-trip, a rider today pays $3.50. Under the new plan, the cost is $6, the daily cap.

Fung wrote that transit systems in Portland, Ore., San Diego, Salt Lake City and San Jose kept the free transfers while adding daily, weekly and monthly fare capping.

Metro says the plan benefits frequent riders by eliminating costly passes and capping maximum fare costs. The cost of monthly passes were slashed by 50% but are scheduled to return to full price next month.

“The new fares would create an equitable price. A rider would pay no more than $6 a day or $20 a week. That is down from the current $7 daily pass and the $25 weekly pass,” said Patrick Chandler, Metro spokesman.

Oscar Zarate, director of building equity and transit for Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), who works with working-class men and women who are transit-dependent Metro riders, said his clients often pay with cash. By not using the value-loaded TAP card which keeps track of fare expenditures, cash riders won’t get the benefit of the fare caps and will end up paying higher fares.

“We are against the proposal in its entirety,” he said during an interview on Nov. 10. “We believe it will harm cash users.”

Zarate said the new fare plan “adds things that are harmful to working-class people who ride.” He’s also opposed to raising fares on seniors.

Elizabeth Medrano, executive director of Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS), says the women she helps who live in reduced-rate housing and ride the bus have felt the cost of inflation on food prices and utilities.

She said rate hikes for bus and rail will hit them hard, since many are recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, from losing their jobs and from lost wages. Most don’t have cars and are transit-dependent, she said.

“It is a scary proposition because people are already having a hard time paying for the buses,” Medrano said on Nov. 10. She said L.A. County residents pay higher sales taxes due to voter-approved measures aimed at cutting traffic and increasing Metro mass transit. Metro’s share of sales tax revenues equals about $4 billion annually, more than half its budget.

“Every time I go to the market or get a coffee, some money goes for transportation. We already pay for it,” she said. Her group and others have argued for a fare-less system, but she sees the proposed fare structure as going in the opposite direction.

“It is another strip of red tape to get us further away from fare-less. It moves us further away from that goal,” she said.

L.A. Metro has about 800,000 boardings daily on seven rail lines and 2,200 low-emission buses in Los Angeles County.

Related links

Survey says: Fewer females ride LA Metro buses and trains, many citing safety and harassment
LA Metro re-evaluates a late night policy that kicks homeless riders off trains at end of line
LA Metro’s ‘Transit Ambassadors’ offer alternative to armed officers
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