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SUBWAY, BUS FARES DOUBLING? MTA: HIKES NEEDED TO BALANCE BUDGET.

Byline: SUE DOYLE

Staff Writer

Bus and subway fares for most riders would more than double by 2009 under a plan unveiled Friday by MTA officials, who are struggling to close a stubborn budget gap.

The two-tier plan would bump up the cost of daily, weekly and monthly passes in July and again in January 2009. Individual fares would jump only once, in 2009, for passengers who pay cash for a one-way trip.

The proposal comes as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority considers cutting some bus routes and streamlining others. CEO Roger Snoble said the agency simply can't pay rising fuel costs and eliminate a looming $1.8 billion deficit by fare increases alone.

"We are heading toward a cliff," Snoble said in an interview. "And if we don't do something, we will fall off that cliff."

Before the MTA board can implement the increases, public hearings will have to be held. And although fares haven't been raised since 1988, those who rely on buses and subways are sure to raise objections.

Under the proposal, the cost of a day pass, which allows unlimited rides on MTA buses and subways, would increase by about 66 percent in just under two years -- from $3 currently to $5 in July and $8 in 2009.

Weekly passes would increase 128 percent -- from $14 to $20 to $32. And monthly passes would jump nearly 130 percent, from $53 to $75 to $120.

Senior citizens would see their monthly passes jump a whopping 400 percent -- from $12 currently to $37.50 in July and $60 in January 2009.

With 1.2 million daily boardings on MTA buses and 124,000 boardings on its subways, the fare increases are sure to have wide-ranging impact.

Rachel Thompson, 24, a Texas native who has to stretch her paycheck from a minimum-wage job to pay for food and rent, worries how she'll pay the higher cost of public transportation.

"I don't know how people make it here in California," Thompson said as she waited for the bus.

But Burbank resident Robert Brooks was more sympathetic, saying public transportation is a better deal -- even if fares rise -- than paying skyrocketing prices at the gas pump.

"You just have to suck it up," Brooks said. "It still costs less than when I had a car."

MTA officials said the fare hikes will bring those in Los Angeles in line with those in other major cities.

In New York, for instance, a one-way bus or subway ride costs $2, while a day pass costs $7 and a monthly pass costs $76.

And commuters in Chicago pay $2 for a one-way ride, $5 for a day pass and $75 for a monthly ticket.

Terry Matsumoto, the MTA's chief financial officer, noted that the agency had been prohibited from raising fares under a 1996 consent decree that forced it to invest $1.3 billion to improve bus service.

A federal judge ruled last October 2006 that the MTA had improved its service sufficiently to allow the consent decree to expire.

The Bus Riders Union -- an advocacy group whose lawsuit against the MTA triggered the consent decree -- has appealed the judge's decision and asked that the decree be reinstated.

BRU spokesman Manuel Criollo also decried the proposed fare hikes.

"We think it strikes at the heart of the struggle for civil-rights enforcement that we've been fighting for the last 12 years," Criollo said.

But MTA officials and some transportation advocates say the consent decree's mandates are a major reason for the transit agency's budget woes.

"We believe that any reasonable plan to bring fares back in line with reality is the best thing for Metro to do," said Kymberleigh Richards, public affairs director for Southern California Transit Advocates, a nonprofit group that focuses on the improvement of public transportation.

sue.doyle(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3746

New fares

Daily pass

Today

$3

July 2007

$5

January 2009

$8

For a look at how other fares will increase, see chart on Page 14

CAPTION(S):

photo, 2 boxes

Photo:

(color) no caption (bus)

Box:

(1) New fares (see text)

(2) MTA fare hikes
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 24, 2007
Words:686
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