Students without cars could soon find themselves with even fewer options for getting around Los Angeles.
Because of massive budget deficits, Los Angeles’ major public transit systems — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — are considering hiking fares and cutting bus lines.
Both MTA, which runs the regular bus routes, and LADOT, whose services include the DASH and the Commuter Express, are researching ridership levels around the city as they consider which lines to shut down.
“It’s in the early stages,” said MTA spokesman Rick Jager. “It’s irresponsible to say which lines will be cut. [At the moment] we have no plans on how to deal with the deficit.”
Jager noted that the number of riders tends to be high in the USC area, but he could not say for sure if the routes near USC would be safe.
MTA has seen a significant drop in ridership recently, causing a large budget deficit that will reach $250 million by the end of the 2011 fiscal year.
Last year, the MTA board approved a 25-cent fare increase, which was set to take effect in July. The increase was postponed by the passage of Measure R, which increased sales tax in Los Angeles County by a half-cent to help finance transportation projects. Fares are now expected to rise this July, jumping from $1.25 to $1.50 per ride, with daily pass fares rising from $5 to $6.
LADOT is facing similar deficits and will also hike up bus fares and cut some less-popular bus lines.
“The bottom line is that we haven’t raised the rates from a quarter since the line started in the ’80s,” said Bruce Gillman, LADOT spokesman. “The money that underwrites our lines have been cut — there’s been a drop in Prop C funds. No line in our transit system operates at a profit. By raising the fare, we hope to keep our system running.”
LADOT bus fares will increase from 25 cents to 50 cents per ride, though it has not yet decided when this increase will happen. It plans on cutting some lines with low numbers of riders, though at the moment it is unclear which lines will go. In the meantime, six different public hearings will be held across Los Angeles in the coming months as an opportunity for riders to voice their comments and concerns about the proposed changes and reductions.
Some feel, however, that these public hearings might not have a bearing on the final transit decisions.
“It could or could not have an effect on their final decision,” said Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair of the Bus Riders Union. “If the public comes out overwhelmingly and says these budget cuts are unjust and how they should redistribute their funds, then it’s possible that public opinion will outweigh [its decisions]. Or, LADOT could have already made up their minds.”
MTA has not announced any public hearings, but law mandates that a hearing be held before any major changes are enacted.
Despite the increases in bus fare, students say riding the bus will still be the best option for getting around.
“We have Zipcars, but the bus is still cheaper,” said Yogesh Shrivastava, a graduate student studying computer science. “If you have to go somewhere near, the bus is the only option.”
Shilpi Sanchetee, a graduate student studying computer science, agreed.
“The frequency [of the buses] is not good,” Sanchetee said, “But sometimes you don’t have another option.”
Lott-Holland encouraged everyone to go to the LADOT public hearings and voice their concerns.
“We are urging the public in large to support the Bus Union Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan,” Lott-Holland said. “It can be used to expand the bus system countywide while staying within the city’s budget and without including fair increases and line cuts.”
One of the public hearings will be held at the South Los Angeles Community Center in the USC area on Feb. 17.
“I would definitely go,” said Shrivastava, “that will affect a lot of people. We should always contribute to things that make a difference.”