Are you ready to pay more than twice what you do now to ride the bus or take a Metro subway train?
Get ready. The transit authority recently announced that it's proposing fare hikes as high as $3.25 a ride. That, however, is just one of a few options being offered, and it wouldn't phase in to that amount for eight years.
Still, the L.A. Bus Riders Union is fuming:
The union says that Metro is putting its multibillion-dollar light rail expansion, allegedly aimed at more suburban riders, on the shoulders of daily transit users who mainly take the bus.
Despite a 2008 sales tax hike that was expected to bring $40 billion to Metro's coffers, not to mention billions more in federal money, Metro is asking some of the county's poorest workers to swallow the cost of an expansion that doesn't even benefit a vast majority of riders, the union argues.
See also: L.A. Light Rail? Or Keep Your Car?
The union has long held the position that bus service is what the overwhelming majority of riders use. It says 90 percent of those riders are minorities who have a way-below-poverty income of $14,000 a year.
Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair of the union:
This is an enormous burden on them. You're raising the fare on the people dependent on public transportation, hoping this will give others incentive to get out of their cars. At least they have cars. The majority of people using the system are the transit-dependent. They continue to carry the burden. They have no other choice.
Lott-Holland is talking, of course, about L.A.'s massive service class – the nannies, dishwashers and hotel workers who pack buses come nightfall.
She says Metro has been cutting bus lines to feed its baby – Metro light rail – which the union claims is aimed at more upper-class riders.
At the same time, Lott-Holland argues, Metro is essentially forcing bus riders to get on some of those trains (and pay extra) by cutting some of its most essential bus lines.
“The rail ridership is up because they're taking away the buses,” she says.
Metro's proposed increases include what it calls a couple “options.” One would raise fares from $1.50 to $1.75 for the next four years and, after that, to $2.25.
The other, Metro states, …
… would keep the base fare at $1.50 during off-peak hours and raise it to $2.25 during peak hours for the next four years and eventually to $2 in off-peak hours and $3.25 in peak hours.
Metro says the proposal would include free transfers. Lott-Holland says riders used to get those free transfers until they were taken away during the a previous round of increases.
The system's board is comprised of political appointees, so this isn't set in stone yet. The board members are amenable to public outcry. And if you are to believe the Bus Riders Union, there will be vocal resistance.