Let Them Eat Cake

Last week the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to raise fares. The cost of a monthly pass will go up from $75 to one $100, a thirty percent increase. The cost of a day pass will from $5 to $7, a forty percent increase. This is an outrageous example of a clueless elite making decisions with no regard for the needs of the population they’re serving. Citing the MTA’s own data, the LA Times reports that over 90 percent of riders are low income, and 80 percent make an average of less than $20,000 a year.

Supervisor Gloria Molina

Supervisor Gloria Molina

The Board projects a $36,000,000 deficit next year. They say that if they don’t raise fares they’ll be forced to lay off 1,000 workers or cut 1,000,000 hours of service. I don’t buy it. These are scare tactics. Gloria Molina, the one member to vote against the fare hike, offered a motion to investigate ways to cut the budget in order to stave off the increase. She couldn’t even get someone to second the motion. For more info on the meeting and the rate hike, you can access the MTA’s newsletter by clicking here.

It’s true that other cities have higher fares, because other cities have a more economically diverse ridership. In New York and San Francisco, a large number of well-paid professionals use mass transit for their daily commute. Not so in LA. The people who use public transit here are mostly on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Charging them $300 more a year to ride the busses and trains in many cases literally means taking food out of their mouths.

For me personally, shelling out $25 more a month is not a huge sacrifice. I prefer to take public transit, and I don’t mind paying a little more. And up until now, I was pleased to see the MTA aggressively expanding the transit network. But now that I see the price tag, my feeling is that they’ve been grossly irresponsible. They embarked on these ambitious plans knowing full well that it would put the MTA in the red, and knowing full well they were going to use that as leverage to raise rates. They’ve obviously forgotten who they’re serving.

Eight of the Board’s thirteen members are either serving on the LA City Council or the LA County Board of Supervisors. All of these people make around $180,000 a year. In addition, most of them use cars and drivers that are paid for by taxpayers. Why is it that decisions about MTA fares are made by people who only take the subway when they’re touting some new program or taking part in a ceremony? None of them rides the bus to work. Obviously Molina is the only one who has any concept of who it is she was elected to serve. She’s the only one who seems to care that for a family living below the poverty line, carving $25 a month out of your budget is a real sacrifice. This is going to hurt a lot of families, and the pampered elitists sitting on the MTA Board don’t care.

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Mayor Eric Garcetti

And speaking of pampered elitists, let’s talk about Eric Garcetti. It should be obvious by now that Garcetti doesn’t give a damn about anyone who hasn’t made a campaign contribution. He has a bold vision for an exciting new LA, full of skyscrapers and wine bars, boutique hotels and high-end clubs. And he’ll bend over backwards to keep his wealthy developer buddies happy, handing out tax breaks and giving them great deals on city-owned land. But he can’t even support affordable fares for the vast majority of MTA riders who really need them.

How did this guy get elected?

2 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Cake

  1. Great point – as a visitor to the city, I rode the Metro system for my first time today, and I can see exactly what you mean about the impact these raises will have on the riders. Transit should be a gateway to improving quality of life, but when rates are increased, low income riders (who also have very little alternatives) suffer.

    There are other gateways to raising money for transit: gas tax, paid parking at stations, increased government support, “premium” express bus routes, toll roads; the list goes on and on. What actions would you recommend the city take instead of raising fares?

    • Thanks for your comments. I agree that transit should improve the quality of life. The difficulty is in convincing Angelenos that it can. Unfortunately, the psychology of car culture is deeply ingrained here. The city was developed so as to promote the use of automobiles, and so residents think driving is a basic right.

      Of the possibilities you recommend, I’d say the gas tax seems the most logical. Hopefully it would discourage driving, and at the same time provide money for more transit options. Toll roads are an interesting idea, and we’ve had some success with them in Southern California, but they’ve also become increasingly contentious in recent years. I also think we could develop LA in such a way as to make it more compact, and the city has had some success over the past decade in making the downtown area a desirable place to both live and work.

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