Metro riders blast new fare plan as unfair to low-income passengers

Unhappy transit riders expressed strong concerns Monday, Nov. 14, over a LA Metro proposal that raises the price of a single ride by 25 cents, increases fares for seniors and disabled passengers and eliminates free transfers and passes.

Passengers prepare to board the Metro B Line (Red) at the North Hollywood Metro Station on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Passengers purchases tickets for the Metro B Line (Red) at the North Hollywood Metro Station on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A passenger with a bicycle enters to board the Metro B Line (Red) at the North Hollywood Metro Station on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)



During a virtual public hearing, more than 70 people testified with nearly 100% of them opposed to the new approach to fares. Many of the callers expressed support for eliminating fares entirely — a policy in place during the pandemic until January 2022 when fares returned — and said the new proposal moves the agency away from a fare-less system.

“Metro riders are extremely low income. The current proposal raises fares. It is not equitable,” testified Laura Raymond, director of ACT-LA, the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles.

The LA Metro Board did not comment on the plan and no vote was taken. The board is scheduled to hear the plan at its next regularly scheduled board meeting on Dec. 1.

Touted as a fare-capping plan, Metro officials called it is a simpler approach that would result in lower costs for those who normally buy $7 daily passes and $25 weekly passes. Buying a pass would no longer be necessary because a rider would get free unlimited rides after they reached a fare cap of $6 a day or $20 a week.

The proposal would raise the base fare from $1.75 to $2.

“Metro’s proposal provides increased economic relief for low-income and frequent riders, will increase ridership, simplify fair structure, keep fares in line with industry standards and create a better customer experience,” said Michelle Navarro, with the Metro Office of Management and Budget.

Navarro said that the fare-capping part of the plan benefits frequent riders, as they shift from buying pre-paid passes to a pay-as-you-go system. “The more you ride, the more you save,” she told the board. “No one ever overpays.”

But the proposal was heavily criticized by leaders of groups who work with low-income riders and their members. Many said working class riders pay in cash and do not use a TAP card. Since fare-capping and other fare-reducing measures are activated by the card, those passengers would not receive those benefits.

Chelsea Kirk, assistant director of policy and research at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), said:  “I am urging you to reject this fare-capping proposal.”

Metro made the argument that other systems have moved away from weekly or monthly passes toward the fare-capping system and said Los Angeles County must get in line.

Elizabeth Medrano, an activist and organizer with Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Services (WORKS), a group that works with low-income riders, said L.A. County should not follow the herd.

“Let’s focus on a local solution for L.A. city and L.A. county people,” she said at the meeting.

Earlier, Los Angeles City Councilmember and Metro board member Mike Bonin tweeted a lengthy response to the rate plan, calling it “complex, confusing, and saddled with a big bag of poison pills.”

While Bonin liked the part of the plan that caps fares, he was against eliminating free transfers and increasing the cost of a ride to seniors and disabled passengers. “And it includes a base fare hike and makes future increases automatic. That’s very bad,” he tweeted.

Many riders said they were against doing away with the free, two-hour transfer that would cause a rider to pay the base fare for each ride in the same direction. A round-trip that today costs $3.50 would go up to $6, the daily cap.

“You could have implemented a daily cap without eliminating free transfers,” said Jamie Farro, a B (Red) Line rider.

Other callers said Metro should hold additional public hearings because the hearing started an hour late due to technical issues, and the process may have cut off speakers or prevented some from testifying. Some said they were waiting two hours to speak. Other speakers said many neighborhood groups were unaware of the hearing or the proposed rate changes.

“We never received notice of this meeting. We weren’t aware this was going on,” said Jamie Penn, president of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council.

Eli Lippmann, executive director of the nonprofit MoveLA, which has supported Metro programs such as the GoPass for K-12 students and those attending community college, said this new fare structure should be taken back to the drawing board.

“You need to take a step back and ask staff to restructure this proposal,” Lippman suggested. He said it would cause an economic burden on seniors,  tripling their costs to ride and those who pay cash, about 25% of all Metro users.

Glendale City Councilmember and LA Metro Board Chairman said the new fare proposal needed to be aired. “This is a serious and significant proposal being floated for our riders,” he said.

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