Friday, December 4, 2009

Metrolink Proposes Slashing Pretty Much Everything

Metrolink has apparently been in pretty dire financial straits- the drop in oil prices and the continued increase in fares has led many to conclude that driving is a better choice for their commute. (It still isn't, but they're *just* thinking about gas prices.) The decline in ridership means a decline in fare revenue, and the spiral continues.

Anyway, the board recently proposed another 6% fare increase, which would be the second this year alone. After angry protests from the ridership, they postponed action on the matter- and came back with this. The board has proposed cuts to over 50 trains, most of them of the preciously rare off-peak, reverse-peak and weekend variety. Here in the IE, the most major cut would be the suspension of ALL Inland Empire-Orange County Line service on Saturday and Sunday. This would mean that the only trains to serve Riverside on weekends would be the random San Bernardino Line trains that extend south one stop to Downtown. There are two of these in each direction on Saturday and Sunday, and they are peak-direction only- into LA in the morning, out of LA at night. There would be no service in Corona or at Riverside-La Sierra. Also, if you think you can just take the 149 through the canyon and pick up the Orange County Line? Yeah, that's being cut too. All weekend service on the OC line will also be suspended. Essentially, if you're car-free in the IE, you're staying out here for the weekend.

My constant critique on this blog of Metrolink's service and value in connecting this region is its rush-hour peak-direction focus. Metrolink offers quick, reliable, safe service all over its service area, but it offers very little of that if you're not working a regular, 9-5 job. The car-free people of Southern California are very much in need of a way to get around our freeway-centric region that's faster than local buses, and Metrolink often falls short of doing that. Budget crises are understandable, but Metrolink's Board needs to get beyond the paradigm of "cut service or raise fares" for funding troubles. There has to be another way.

Incidentally, I hope that all of you will write to the Metrolink Board and tell them that a 6% fare hike is better than losing all of our weekend train service. In the short-term, if that's what the Board feels they have to do, it's better than these draconian service reductions. In the long term, however, Metrolink needs to find more sustainable sources of funding, and the Board should be expected to approve this fare hike with the understanding that it ought to be the last one for a long while. (For my idea for Metrolink funding, see here.)

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