Riders to rebel against fee hikes

Doug Weaver

The MTA’s recent fare increases have caused riders to grumble and authorities to brace for an increase in the number of people trying to ride for free.

Effective July 1, the cost of a day pass rose from $3 to $5, a weekly pass from $14 to $17 and a monthly pass went from $52 to $62, according to the MTA Web site. Senior and disabled fares rose as well.

Tracy Rodriguez, 17, a student buying a day pass at the North Hollywood Red Line Station, relies on public transportation to get around Los Angeles and isn’t happy about the fare increase.

“I take the Metro and it’s really expensive now,” she said. “People are going to drive cars instead.”

Being a student, she said she can’t afford to pay the increase in fare.

Rodriguez routinely travels to mid-Wilshire to visit her mother, who lives near the Wilshire/Normandy Station on the Purple Line.

She has resisted buying a car until now, but thinks she may have to in light of the fare increases.

She thinks people will buy more cars, and that will cause more accidents, she said, adding that she has to make sacrifices to compensate for the increase in fare.

“I can’t buy other things I want now,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t buy my snacks.”

Dan Finkelstein, commander of the MTA Police for the last four years, said his department had been warned of rumors that people would be evading the payment of fares as an act of protest to the fare increases.

“As of the first [of July], we increased staffing by 10 to 15 percent,” he said, adding that they didn’t know what to expect.

“But the opposite happened,” he said. “Fare evasions actually decreased by three percent.”

Lt. Mike Herek of the Transit Services Bureau located at 2000 E. Imperial Highway agreed, saying he’d seen fliers posted at various locations throughout Los Angeles that encouraged riders to evade fare payment for July 2, but he had yet to see any increase in the number of people trying to ride for free.

Herek said this might have been due to a general decrease in ridership over the Fourth of July holiday.

Even though she has seen no official statistics, Carson resident Joya Cueava, a security officer for the transit authority at the North Hollywood Station disagrees, saying she has observed firsthand an increase in the number of people cited for non-payment of fares.

“I’m sorry for the people who get cited,” she said, adding that $5 is just too much for many people to pay.

Herek said the discrepancy exists because Cueava isn’t a sworn officer and she can only offer anecdotal information, not facts.

Cueava complained that even she, as an MTA employee, has to pay full fare.

She said some of the ticket machines inside the station had apparently been overlooked during the conversion to higher fares and were still dispensing tickets at the lower price. She seemed glad that some riders were still able to buy tickets at a cheaper rate.

“You just have to know which machines do that,” Cueava said.

Scott Rice, 34, an attorney visiting from Champagne, Ill., said the fares in Chicago were more reasonable than in Los Angeles.

“I only pay $2.50 to three bucks for a roundtrip ticket in Chicago,” he said, but added that the increase to $5 for a day pass was worth it if it continued to keep the metro stations as clean and safe as they appeared to be.

“These stations are much cleaner than what I deal with in Chicago,” Rice said.