LOS ANGELES (August 25, 2008) – A Los Angeles Superior Court judge today denied a legal challenge blocking increased bus fares in low-income neighborhoods. Conservation and community groups had argued the fare hike should not go forward until an environmental assessment is complete. Higher fares could make public transportation unaffordable for as many as 100,000 bus riders with an annual median income of $12,000, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Bus Riders Union and the Labor/Community Strategy Center.
Following is a statement by David Pettit, director of NRDC’s Southern California Clean Air Program:
“Today’s ruling means more people will be forced to take potentially more polluting forms of transportation to work, school or church. MTA should make it easier, not harder, for riders to use public transportation. When people switch from buses to cars due to higher bus fares, the result will be dirtier air. There’s no question that the cost of a bus ride impacts the environment.”
NRDC attorneys presented oral arguments at a public hearing on August 6, 2008, to require the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to roll back the fare increases pending completion of an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The MTA has seen a five percent drop in total bus ridership, representing 1.3 million daily boardings, since the fare hike took effect July 1, 2007. Additional ridership data shows an approximately 21 percent increase in rail ridership, representing 19,000 daily boardings, on the Pasadena Gold Line, most likely due to higher gas prices. More than 80 percent of the MTA’s riders depend on buses, so while the percentage of commuters riding rail has increased, total system ridership has declined significantly.