MTA to raise rates in attempt to meet budget

LOS ANGELES The /*Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority*/ says that ridership is down, state funding has been cut and tax revenues are down. So the agency needs to shave $24 million out of the budget.

People who ride the Metro say this is fee hike is coming at the worst possible time. And they say there is still time to stop the increase from going into effect.

By bus and by train, Marcel Carter makes a 46-mile commute every day.

"I have to ride the bus all the way to Universal Studios every day, back and forth, seven days a week," said Carter.

But getting to his job in the Valley from his home in Compton is about to get more expensive, for Carter and the 500,000 others who ride Metro.

Metro's first rate increase in two years is set to go into effect on July 1.

Riders would see a one-way fare go from $1.25 to a $1.50. A day pass will go from $5 to $6. A weekly pass will go from $17 to $20. A $62 monthly pass climbs to $75, and a transit pass goes from $70 to $84.

"It's going to hurt people. We're not going to deny that," said MTA spokesman Marc Littman.

Littman says the increases will help make up for a $204-million deficit in its operating budget for buses and trains.

"Still among the lowest of any major transit throughout the United States," said Littman. "So the fares will still be low, but we're in a situation where -- how are we going to subsidize it?"

Francisca Porchas is with the /*Bus Riders Union*/. She says the rate hikes will hurt those who depend on mass transit the most.

"The point is that we need to keep the lowest fares in the country," said Porchas. "Why? Because it's regressive for the poor. The average bus rider makes $12,000 a year. We're talking about profoundly poor people, that you're going to be making this punitive."

The MTA Board is scheduled to meet Thursday and is expected to call for a special meeting in May, where the rate increase would be explained to the public. But the Bus Riders Union is calling for a public meeting and a public vote on the issue.

The rate increases would not affect those with disabilities, students, Medicare recipients, and riders older than 62.

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