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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Metrolink to solicit public input on proposed fare hike


Metrolink will host a hearing May 30 to solicit public comments on a proposed fare increase aimed at helping close a $13 million funding gap in the fiscal-year 2012-13 budget.

The proposal calls for hiking fares 5 percent to 9 percent system-wide on July 1, Metrolink officials said in a prepared statement.

"Last year, we were able to delay an increase to passenger fares and member agency subsidies while increasing train service by 14 percent. This year, despite continued efficient management practices, our costs have increased mostly because of the rising cost of fuel and an increase in our operations contracts due to a sweeping nationwide labor negotiation settlement," said Metrolink Chief Executive Officer John Fenton.

A fare increase would be the last resort to maintain current service levels, agency officials said. Under the current proposal, the increase would only partially close the funding gap; to fully cover the gap, fares would have to increase 20 percent, Fenton said.

Metrolink’s member agencies also are being asked to increase their subsidy to help close the deficit.

Major factors leading to the agency’s funding gap include a $4.7 million hike in fuel costs (Metrolink’s fuel costs have risen 78 percent during the past two years); a $3.2 million increase in contracted vendor costs due to a nationwide labor agreement; $1.3 million in connecting transit transfer costs for Metrolink riders; $1 million in the Bombardier contract to support the rail reliability program and increased car-cleaning costs associated with the fleet’s rolling stock additions; and $2.5 million for post-employment benefits that weren’t previously budgeted for, Metrolink officials said.

“The current economic climate, including soaring fuel prices, requires tough decisions by transportation leaders to fund operations at a level that will continue to meet the region's transportation needs. Many transportation providers across the country and in the southern California region are faced with the same challenges, and have responded by raising fares up to 35 percent,” said Fenton.