Friday, December 11, 2009

Metrolink Punts, IEOC Weekends Still Vulnerable

The Metrolink Board of Directors met today (and I was sadly unable to attend) and... did nothing. Well, they did a number of important things, awarding contracts for various bits of kit that keep the trains running every day, but they took no action on the fare hikes or service cuts. That's been postponed until January 8th, and by then I'll be able to afford the train ticket in to LA to give them a piece of my mind.

Reading through the meeting documents, it seems that all of the service cuts are still on the table. Especially, apparently, the IE-OC and OC line weekend cuts. Metrolink staff is adamant that all weekend service on these lines be suspended, apparently due to construction for the 30-minute Metrolink service that's been promised in the OC for years. Of course, they promise to bring back the Beach train for Summer 2010. (All well and good, but I'm not a big beach person. I'm a big go-somewhere-other-than-Riverside-on-the-weekend person, but you're not really helping with that.) Metrolink has never before instituted service cuts, and I hope we still don't have to see them, but apparently the overwhelming balance of public comment was against fare hikes at all costs.

Which brings me to the next point. It looks like a 3% fare hike is also probably coming in February 2010. It's still a rather minor increase, but I find myself looking back longingly at the old fare system, which went for several years without a fare increase. We've had one yearly pretty much ever since. After a while, it does get pretty ridiculous. I'd like to note here that Metrolink has an absurdly high farebox recovery ratio, which approaches 50% and is among the highest in the nation. Staff appears poised to ask the member agencies for more in subsidies, and I hope they ask for a lot more. Even a 30% recovery ratio is phenomenal for American transport operators, and think of the kind of system Metrolink could be for that extra 20%.

One last thing... if Metrolink does insist upon cutting IE-OC service, is there any way they could do something to mitigate the loss? I'd love to see the SB line officially extended to Riverside for either most or all runs on weekends, and increased service on the 149 as well. It'd go a long way towards making up for all that lost weekend mobility. Or maybe a Metrolink bus to replace the train? It has to be cheaper, and probably time-competitive on the weekends.

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