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Metrolink to cut 12 rail lines instead of 44

April 2, 2010 12:51:29 AM PDT
Metrolink is looking for ways to offset a major budget shortfall and it could include fare hikes and service cuts.The Metrolink Board heard from riders Friday about how proposed cutbacks would affect their commute. And they announced a bit of good news: They won't have to cut as many lines as they originally thought.

It looks as if most Metrolink riders who were losing their trains can now relax.

There are 44 lines that were going to be eliminated; now it's only 12.

There is some bad news: Fares will probably go up.

The system-wide fare increase, if it's approved, will be 6 percent. Discounts on round-trip tickets would be eliminated. The senior disabled discounts on 10-trip tickets and monthly passes will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent.

But there is some better-than-expected news from the Metrolink Board of Directors.

"There are no cuts recommended by staff. None for the Antelope Valley Line in any fashion," said Eric Haley, chief executive officer of Metrolink.

The Board delayed final action on raising fares and eliminating lines.

But it was revealed Friday that instead of reducing or eliminating 44 trains, there will only be 12 eliminated. Eight of them either begin or end at Union Station.

"If ridership is down, I think it's simply because there are not enough trains, not too many, but too few," said Santa Clarita resident Marsha McClean, a Metrolink rider who wants to see more flexibility with operating hours.

Most of the people who showed up for Friday's hearing were pleased at the recommendation to reduce the number of lines to be eliminated.

Burbank's Bob Hope Airport will be affected by the cutbacks.

"We believe it's better public policy to try and increase the number of paying passengers that use a service, rather than reduce a service and raise fares," said Dan Feger, executive director of Bob Hope Airport.

Ridership is leveling off, but it's still down from the days before the recession hit. And the state is taking Metrolink operating funds.

"We're doing what we have to do to avoid this from getting worse in the future. We're trying to stop it today, be more efficient today, and on a going-forward basis, continue to be more efficient, but we want to build back up our customer base," said Richard Katz, chairman of the Metrolink Board.

They also named a new CEO, John Fenton. He'll take his seat on April 16. Seven days later is when they're expected to approve the elimination of 12 rail lines and the fare increases.