The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors will give transit riders a chance to voice their opinions today at a special meeting on impending fare hikes set to go into effect July 1.
The meeting, however, does not mean the board will be taking any action to change the fare hikes. Reconsidering the fare hikes that were approved in 2007 would require a two-thirds vote from the board.
A large contingent of transit riders are expected to attend the meeting, despite their displeasure that the board has no immediate plans to reverse the fare hikes.
"We want to keep fares low,'' Esperanza Martinez of the Bus Riders Union said during a Metro board meeting last month. "A special board meeting basically tells people that you will not have the opportunity to influence a policy to raise your fares, regardless of what you say.''
The Bus Riders Union wants the board to hold a regular public hearing and revisit the fare hikes, but Metro officials said it is facing a budget crunch and desperately needs the $24 million the increased fares are expected to generate.
Metro spokesman Marc Littman said Metro is facing a projected $180 million operating deficit -- the largest in its history -- for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The situation is so dire that Metro is planning to eliminate about 20 percent of its non-contract workforce this spring, potentially resulting in about 100 employees losing their jobs, he added.
The plan is to raise the fare for one-way rides by 25 cents to $1.50, and monthly passes by $13 to $75. Daily passes will go from $5 to $6, and the EZ transit pass from $70 to $84.
Fares will not be raised for people with disabilities, students, Medicare recipients and people who are 62 or older.
"The planned increase in the regular cash fare from $1.25 to $1.50 is still among the lowest of any major transit property in the country,'' Littman said last month. ``New York, Chicago and San Diego charge $2.25.''
"This would only be our third fare change in the last 15 years,'' Littman added. "Our bus and rail riders (pay) only 26 percent of what it costs to operate the service. The rest is subsidized and the problem is we're running out of the subsidy monies.''
Even with the fare hike, Metro would recover only 28 percent of the cost of operating the service, Littman said, adding that most major transit agencies recover 40 percent.
Metro officials have blamed the agency's operating deficit on decreased ridership, the loss of state funds and declines in revenue from two of the county's three transportation sales taxes -- all factors driven by the economic recession.