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Council Picks Smaller Bus Fare Increase  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

May 28, 2010 --By a 4-3 vote, the City Council on Tuesday increased the Big Blue Bus fare for regular riders from 75 cents to $1 and for seniors and the disabled from 25 cents to 50 cents. Multi-boarding pass options that mostly feature per-ride discounts were also approved. The three dissenting council members favored an increase to $1.25 for regular riders, an option also preferred by City staff as a method to tackle the Blue Bus’ growing structural deficit.

The new fare structure, which will go into effect on Aug. 29, will net an additional $1.6 million next fiscal year and $2.3 million for 2011-12 (the difference due to the fares remaining as they are now for July and most of August for the upcoming fiscal year). But with the Blue Bus facing a structural deficit projected to reach more than $18 million by 2015, City staff said even with the fare increases, service reductions will need to begin in 2012-2013. Several council members said they do not want that to happen and that other revenue enhancements need to be found.

“I’m just adamant about the fact that we cannot allow service to be cut and ridership to diminish in this community,” McKeown said. “We need to go the other way.”

One option proposed by former Mayor Denny Zane, who heads the public transportation advocacy group Move LA, would be to increase parking fines by 10 percent. He also said the council should keep an eye on two items making their way through the political system. They are a bill recently introduced by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) that would designate $2 billion for the nation’s public transit agencies and a measure recently submitted for qualification on the November ballot that would prevent Sacramento from raiding local coffers dedicated to public transportation and other purposes.

Council member Terry O’Day, who worked with Zane on the successful campaign for the half-cent County sales tax for transportation projects, said he supported the parking fine option.

“You’re drawing your revenue from folks who may not like the cost of a parking ticket, but at least they know they did something wrong,” O’Day said.

O’Day said increasing parking meter costs on the City’s boulevards was another option. McKeown said the City should look at increasing fees for developers


to cover the cost of the “demonstrable nexus between increased development and the need for more transit if we’re not to totally gridlock our streets.”

The council was expected to discuss Blue Bus revenue options at the budget study session on Thursday night.

Council member Robert Holbrook, who cast a dissenting vote along with Council member Richard Bloom and Mayor Bobby Shriver, said he preferred the $1.25 rate for regular fares because he feared not going with that would mean the council would be back in the same place next year with a need to increase the fare due to the structural deficit.

“We need to be more aggressive now to try to get closer to solving this problem,” Holbrook said.

Shriver said Blue Bus staff should share the burden, and help toward cutting into the deficit whether it be through salary reduction or some other method. City management is currently in talks with the employee labor unions about cost sharing on the growing health care and pension costs.

“If we’re going to ask the public to increase the fares, it seems to me that we ought to be asking the employees, who are such an enormous percentage of the budget, to make some contribution to that,” Shriver said.

Another feature of the new Blue Bus fare structure is a 30-day pass, with the timeline for the pass beginning after the initial use and not necessarily at the beginning of a month. This pass will cost $60 for regular riders, $40 for students and $24 for seniors and the disabled. The day pass will have a price increase, going from $2.50 to $4.00 for regular riders and from $1.25 to $1.50 for seniors and the disabled.

A new offer, the “Baker’s Dozen” pass, will allow 13 rides at a cost of $15 for regular riders and $6 for seniors and the disabled. This translates to a 4-cent decrease per ride for seniors and disabled passengers and a 15-cent increase for regular riders per trip.

The Blue Bus to Blue Bus transfer, which had been eliminated in an April proposal by staff, was reinstated at the same 50-cent cost for regular riders and with a 15-cent increase to 25 cents for seniors and the disabled. Inter-agency transfers will have that cost as well.


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