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Nine Out of Ten Bus Riders in L.A. Are People of Color, And as Fares Have Gone Up, Their Income Has Gone Down

Buses are more painful to catch in L.A., says Bus Riders Union.
Buses are more painful to catch in L.A., says Bus Riders Union.
pichenettes

Updated with Metro's response, after the jump.

Forget about President Obama's $1 billion gift for transit stimulus in L.A. Or Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's $9 billion "Subway to the Sea" monument to hizzoner for a moment.

Most Metro users in town take the bus, more than 9 in 10 of those folks are people of color, and despite stimuli and an expanding subway and light-rail system, the price they pay has gone up, and their income has gone down.

This according to a UCLA report (PDF) commissioned by the Bus Riders Union, which states:

... Steep fair increases imposed by MTA in the middle of the economic crisis have increased the burden disproportionately on the region's low-income transit-dependent transit riders. The report, written by UCLA economist Paul Ong and Silvia Jimenez, reveals that the impact of the crisis of the last 3 years has been felt most of all by those at the lowest end of the economic latter, a heavily transit-dependent population that has seen the sharpest drop in earnings alongside increases in rent and other necessary expenses.

The study finds that:

Big buses.
Big buses.
Metro

-92 percent of bus riders are people of color.

-Nearly 8 out of 10 workers who ride the bus are renters.

-8 out of 10 transit users are from homes where at least one adult doesn't have a car.

And while rent has gone up 15 percent from 2006-2009, the power of the dollar in the region has gone down 6 percent, average regional earnings are down 14 percent, and unemployment in the county is at nearly 12.5 percent, Metro has imposed two fare hikes since 2007.

This while seeing that stimulus cash and the passage of a new half-cent sales tax that could put $40 billion in the MTA's coffers.

Needless to say, the Bus Riders Union isn't happy:

Ranteth the BRU:

... Metro's budget has grown since 2009, with a new sales tax generating $500-600 million in new revenue annually. 20% of these funds earmarked for buses service expansion have not materialized in any improvements. With its resources invested in expensive rail capital projects showing minimal returns in new riders (7.5 million new boardings annually on rail since 2007), the combination of fare increases and bus service cuts have pushed "borderline" riders back into their cars and others off of public transit altogether.

Update: Metro spokesman Rick Jager tells the Weekly with some irony that the UCLA study used some of its own rider-survey data from last summer which also found that ...

-86 percent of Metro bus and train riders are satisfied the service.

-90 percent feel safe riding buses and trains.

-83 percent say the Metro's schedules meet their needs.

In terms of fares, Jager says that rides are subsidized at a higher rate than other systems in the nation: 72 cents of every dollar Metro spends is subsidized; riders only contribute 28 cents of every dollar needed to keep the buses and trains running.

He says:

"We have one of the lowest fare structures in the nation compared to other transit programs, including New York ... San Francisco ... San Diego."

First posted at 3:36 p.m.

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