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Bus Riders Union on Day 6 of Hunger Strike Outside Union Station

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Since last Thursday, a handful of Bus Rider Union members have camped out across from Union Station in weeklong hunger strike. Last night at 10 p.m., the atmosphere was jovial: music, singing, conversation, laughter. If it weren't for the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles towering above, this was exactly what any campsite in the woods felt like. But here, there's a message and that is of stopping Metro fare hikes that will begin in July.

"The idea is to basically show the MTA the conditions they are setting people with this fare increase," explained Ronald Collins who has been fasting since last week. "For working class communities of color, that $13 is a meal, that $13 is added on top of rising cost of rent, the rising cost of school tuition, the rising cost of everything in our lives."

On July 1st, new fares will be upped a quarter to $1.50 for one ride. Day passes will go up to $6 from $5, Weekly up $3 to $20 and monthly will increase $13 to $75. It's the third fare hike in 15 years and compared to other major American cities, it's still lower: New York and Chicago boardings cost $2.25 for a boarding.

Collins, however, is not taking it. "It's not necessary, we know their budget has increased by $1 billion in the last three years," he explained.

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Bart Reed, who heads up the Transit Coalition, says that money is for capital projects. "It's not fungible," he exclaimed, noting that the state took $200 million from Metro this year. While other areas like Orange County cut service because of that raid, Metro used Measure R sales tax money to preserve it.

Reed thinks the fare increases are a better solution than cutting service, which Metro says would happen if they didn't charge more money. "From where I live [in Sylmar] to the Red Line, the last service from Olive View Hospital goes there at 9 p.m. at night -- that's not acceptable. I rather have service 'til midnight when people get off work and pay a litlte bit more."

Streets activist Stephen Box said any cuts just put more bicycles on the road. "Every single service cut leaves gaps which makes a cyclist's contribution as a transportation solution even more signifiacnt because every human on a bike is a gap connector and increases the capacity of a complete transportation system, and that's Metro's mandate: to provide a transit sytem."

The hunger strike will last through Thursday, when the Metro board is scheduled to meet next. (Update: to be extra clear -- because there has been some confusion out there -- there is no agenda item to discuss fares on Thursday. The BRU is simply timing their protest in conjunction with the meeting.)