Wednesday, April 21, 2010

File This Under Stupid

I often have to remind myself that I shouldn't be sanctimonious about my use of and support for public transportation. Yes, I've cut down the size of my carbon footprint here in Southern California by using public transportation exclusively, but I have to admit that if I could drive, I probably would. I spend four or more hours a day during the weekdays on the bus or train, commuting to my job and traveling around as part of my job, and it's exhausting. But I can't drive for medical reasons, so if nothing else, it is in my best interest to be concerned by the news that fares in my area are once again going up.

Amid the worst economic downturn since World War II, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to increase fares for the first time in two years to help offset a $204-million gap in its operating budget for buses and rail systems. ...

Unless the MTA board of directors rescinds the increase, the one-way cash fare will rise from $1.25 to $1.50, a daily pass will go from $5 to $6 and a monthly pass will increase from $62 to $75. Fares will not be raised for people with disabilities, students, Medicare recipients and people who are 62 or older.

"The monthly pass is going up by $13. That's a meal on the table. The typical transit rider only makes about $12,000 to $17,000 a year," said Barbara Lott-Holland of Los Angeles, a member of the Bus Riders Union who relies on the county transit system.

Now fares themselves do not provide the funds necessary to operate a major metropolitan transit system. The MTA relies on a portion of local sales tax revenues, state funding, and some federal grants to keep the buses and trains rolling. Those sources have been reduced dramatically (if not cut out completely) because of the nasty recession we're still going through. Yes, our MTA has gotten some of the federal stimulus funds, but those funds are restricted to new construction programs (dedicated bus lanes, extension of the subway and light rail lines) and cannot be used for day-to-day operations of the existing services.

That's the biggest part of the problem right now, and it's one that could be solved with the help of members of the California delegation in Washington. Lifting at least some of the restrictions on the federal funds would obviate the need to raise fares and reduce service, the only options available to the MTA right now.

At the same time, however, the MTA's Board of Directors also has to recognize that part of their duties involve extensive lobbying of the federal and state governments to fund public transportation adequately, both here and across the nation, something they have not been too adept at lately. California Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger should never have been allowed to cut out funding for public transportation completely, and yet that's exactly what he and the legislature did.

If the economy picks up, and if jobs begin to appear, a functioning bus and rail system will be needed to get people to work. In the mean time, there has to be a better effort than raising fares to cut the shortfall.

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Blogger PurpleGirl said...

Argh! Saying that the L.A. system is still cheaper than NYC's system is really inane. It won't make people feel better because they live in L.A. I have a friend in L.A. who this is going to affect badly. He's barely making it now. (And I live in NYC and facing cutbacks in bus service. I can't use the subway because I have trouble climbing stairs. The politicians don't use the transit systems so its operations are abstract to them. They should be forced to use them to get to work. (I don't buy Bloomberg's sanctimony about how he uses the subway -- he is driven to an express train stop to get to City Hall. He doesn't have to change from a local train or take over an hour to use the bus.)

10:37 AM  
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