Ventura County transportation leaders said Friday that Metrolink should consider cutting its fares for short trips to the San Fernando Valley to lure more riders onto the new commuter trains running between Moorpark and downtown Los Angeles.
Simi Valley City Councilman Bill Davis, who serves on the regional board that oversees Metrolink, said the train system's fares were set up for long-distance commuters.
But Davis said Metrolink's high ticket prices--such as $5.50 one way between Simi Valley and Van Nuys--are causing many short-distance commuters to stay on the region's clogged freeways.
"I know how and why they're doing things a certain way," Davis said of the Metrolink fare plan. "But we're trying to build ridership."
Davis also serves on the Ventura County Transportation Commission, which received a Metrolink briefing during its monthly meeting Friday in Camarillo.
Commissioners said they were pleased that paid ridership on Metrolink's line for Ventura County exceeded projections last week. But they urged their staff members to raise concerns about the fares with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which runs Metrolink.
Davis said many Simi Valley residents have told him that they would ride the train to and from work in Chatsworth if the fare was less than the current $4.50 each way. Davis suggested lowering it to $2.50 or $3 each way.
Mary Travis, the Ventura County commission's manager of transit programs, said Friday that she had already told Metrolink officials about the concerns raised by Davis and other Ventura County leaders.
"It likely won't make that much difference in revenue," Travis said. "But a small adjustment like that could boost the ridership."
Metrolink spokesman Peter Hidalgo said the regional rail board will discuss ticket prices at its regular meeting next Friday.
"We will be taking another look at our fare structure," he said. "It is not expected that any action will take place (immediately). But we are definitely looking at this because of the number of inquiries and comments that Metrolink has received."
In its first week of free travel, beginning Oct. 26, the line for Ventura County carried more than 2,400 riders on some days.
During the past week, when tickets were required, the line averaged about 1,200 riders per day or about 600 in each direction, Metrolink officials said. They said the total exceeded their projections of about 900 riders per day.
The line stops in Moorpark, Simi Valley, Chatsworth, Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale and Union Station in Los Angeles. Metrolink officials said figures on how many passengers board or leave at each stop will not be available for several weeks.
Hidalgo, however, said the Ventura County line lured the most Metrolink passengers last week, surpassing the other two routes originating in Santa Clarita and Pomona.
He predicted that ridership will gradually increase, following a pattern seen with other new rail lines.
In Ventura County, Fillmore residents might begin boosting Metrolink's ridership on Monday when a new bus service is launched between that city and the Moorpark station.
Terrie Quinn, manager of the Fillmore Area Transit Corp., said her firm decided to add the service after about 150 residents said in a survey that they wanted to ride Metrolink daily or occasionally. The bus trip will cost $1 each way, she said.
County transportation commissioners also told their staff members on Friday to survey passengers at the Moorpark station to determine where they live.
"I have the feeling that we probably have some people coming from Santa Rosa Valley and Camarillo and some from Thousand Oaks," said county Supervisor Vicky Howard, who also serves on the commission. "If we have a concentration coming from one area, we could look at a van or minibus" to carry them to and from the station, she said.