LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Metropolitan Transporation Authority board voted Thursday to increase bus and rail fares by 25 cents, to begin in September, despite emotional pleas from riders.
However, the board did agree to temporarily hold off on additional increases that had been proposed for 2017 and 2020.
The base fare for Metro buses and trains will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 in September following the 8-1 vote, but passengers will also be given two hours of free transfers. There will be no rate increases for the elderly or students.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina was the only board member to dissent.
“There is no other bus line in this country that has as dramatic a number of minority bus riders and low-income bus riders than MTA does,” Molina said to her peers.
Molina said she wanted the MTA to forgo a fare increase and instead be ordered to cut their budget by 1.5 percent, or about $31 million, to close the existing deficit.
Her motion to delay the vote on fare hikes fell on deaf ears.
“I don’t want to delay action today,” L.A. mayor and MTA board member Eric Garcetti said.
The vote took place after an hours-long public hearing, which included comments from over 100 people, the majority of whom opposed the fare increases.
“We can’t afford this,” a young woman said to the board.
“You know there are more poor than the rich, in this world,” one 92-year-old rider said in Korean, after expressing that she couldn’t afford the fare hike.
Under the original proposal, fare increases to $2 in 2017 and $2.25 in 2020 were called for, but the board agreed to delay a decision on those hikes, pending further consideration.
Day pass fares will increase from $5 to $7 in September, and weekly and monthly passes will also rise.
Metro officials argue that the fare hikes are required in order to erase a projected $36.8 million budget shortfall, which was projected for 2016.
The agency originally predicted the financial hole to rise as high as $225 million over the next 10 years.
While base fares will increase, Metro officials said many riders would still likely benefit from the new structure, thanks to the inclusion of free transfers for two hours.
Riders currently pay a separate fare each time they board a different bus or train.
A number of people have complained that, since Metro began enforcing fares, minorities had been disproportionately affected.
Transit rider advocates of the Bus Riders Union met with Mayor Garcetti, who sits the board, and had engaged in “ongoing communication” with his office.
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