Metrolink board delays vote on raising fares

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At a meeting Friday, Metrolink’s board of directors did something that’s likely to make riders happy. It delayed a vote on yet another rate increase. The board decided to consider some alternatives.

Metrolink’s staff had recommended a 6 percent fare increase and painted a bleak picture of the commuter rail service’s outlook – 80 percent of riders commute to L.A. County for work, and as unemployment has risen, rail ridership has dropped. The agency’s taken in 9 percent less fare money than expected.

Riders like Charlie McDaniel who are still adjusting to a fare hike in August urged the board not to do it again. "These are difficult times," said McDaniel, who commutes daily from Riverside to a law firm in downtown L.A. "But yet, you want to charge us more to ride your trains and you give us nothing for these fare increases. Many of your riders barely have money for food or to pay rent."

McDaniel also suggested a bar car on some trains might raise some of the revenue Metrolink needs.

"You could sell an abundance of coffee in the morning," she told the board with a laugh, "and at night, cocktails, sodas, etc."

John Walsh of the United Riders of Los Angeles said Metrolink shouldn't be raising fares, but lowering them.

"What does Macy's do when customers don't show up?" he asked the board. "Do they raise the prices? No. They lower the prices. Why does Macy's lower the prices? Because if you lower prices or lower the fare, more people will take the train."

None of the board members appeared ready to support a fare hike, and most agreed it would be the wrong signal to send to riders. They decided to devote most of their next meeting to studying other options: reducing service, delaying some repairs, and borrowing $2 million from a separate Los Angeles County Metro fund.