Here’s An Idea: Tax Drivers Instead Of Raising LA Metro Fares

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Originally published on Gas 2.


After a lovely 20 mile ride through the scenic LA river bike path, the spacious Forest Lawn Drive, the terrifying Highland Blvd freeway off-ramp and into Hollywood for a party, we decided to take the Metro home. Home is downtown Los Angeles, DTLA to the locals, and one can definitely say “all roads lead to home” when home is DTLA.

On this particular Metro ride, though, we saw this poster advertising an upcoming public hearing about a fare hike. Being one of the 90% of Angelenos who rarely takes the Metro, I was unaware of this hike. On March 29th, I plan to be at that hearing, being heard. While it’s great that they’re doing away with charging for transfers, it shouldn’t be at a cost that could send this brand-new subway system the way of the old Red Car line.

But first, let me take a moment to introduce my readers to 21st century Los Angeles. Yes, 20th century Los Angeles was a car town, but now in 2014 we actually have 87 miles of rail serving a whopping 3.5% of the county’s residents. If you limit it to LA City, instead of the entire 4,752 sq miles of the county, it’s more like 9.2% of the population. So yes, we have a subway system, started in 1990, but most Angelenos would rather sit around and waste money on gas and things like tickets for texting while driving than discover what lies beneath the traffic.

DTLA traffic 11020th Century LA

Once upon a time, Los Angeles had over 1,000 miles of rail lines. Then they suffered a “revenue shortfall” and replaced those rail lines with buses provided by the likes of General Motors. Now that Los Angeles’ population has skyrocketed exponentially, people are starting to rediscover the appeal in mass transit and options other than cars. This is good, considering we’re estimated to add another 2.4 million sun-worshippers by 2030.

Yet LA Metro wants to nip all that in the bud and be sure we’re happy in our shiny little cages, err cars. Rather than do something sensible, like charge a congestion tax to subsidize the Metro, they’re proposing a fare hike. A fare hike on the means of transportation most needed by the city’s poorest, at a time when this mode of transit is becoming more popular!

We’ve built this gorgeous metro system that travels far and wide, is fast, and pleasant to ride. Yet most Angelenos don’t have much of an incentive to discover it, aside from poverty or a DUI. Some companies offer transit vouchers, but that’s really not enough. There need to be more disincentives to driving than just the risk of being caught staring at your phone or smoking a joint. Yes, many Angelenos find driving so unbearable they have to get stoned WHILE they’re doing it. It’s a bad scene man, and it’s not getting any better.

As the map above shows clearly, there are enough wealthy people driving into DTLA to subsidize the Metro system, and if that sounds too socialist for you, well, think of it as an incentive for people who want to drive their cars without traffic. Every potential driver on the Metro system is one less driver on our clogged highway system.

So how can we inspire more people to take the transit while keeping costs down? By adding a $12.50/month tax to parking cost, the city could pay the $36.8 million the Metro will need by 2016 and inspire more people to go metro. That’s the cost of about three gallons of gas, and taking the Metro also adds an extra level of peace of mind, even for the well-off.

Taking the Metro sure beats having to pack safety cones in your Lambo…

DTLA Lambo parking

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2 thoughts on “Here’s An Idea: Tax Drivers Instead Of Raising LA Metro Fares

  • While the idea of charging a use fee to drive in the large cities. Either a flat yearly fee, or a per trip fee, and using that money to fund the mass transit system. Would be great for all the big 20 (and soon the big 50-100) cities in the USA. If we look back 20 years and someone said NY would turn some of it’s core roads into people ways and parks, most would have said unlikely. So go for it and hope for the best.

  • Already happening. 15+ percent of federal gas taxes already goes to transit.

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