LANCASTER — Bus-riding commuters won a bittersweet victory Tuesday when the Antelope Valley Transit Authority agreed to increase fares to the San Fernando Valley by only 21%--less than half of a proposed 44% rate hike.
The compromise fare increase was approved by transit authority board members Leroy Harrington and Joe Davies, with member George Root absent, after commuters last week threatened to stop riding the buses if the proposed increase was approved. The fare would have increased from $2.25 per ride to $3.25. Instead, the transit authority will charge $2.73 per ride, based on the cost of a 44-ride pass.
Board members Tuesday also approved a doubling of the medical shuttle fare to $5 each way. The once-weekly shuttle takes Antelope Valley riders to major medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Minor fare increases were approved for the bus route that takes commuters to downtown Los Angeles, and rates were set for the newly established local route serving Lake Los Angeles. The ride from Lake Los Angeles to Littlerock will cost 75 cents. To Palmdale or Lancaster, the fare is $1.25. The fares approved Tuesday take effect Oct. 1.
Other than objections raised by San Fernando Valley-bound commuters, few public transit riders opposed the fare increases during the two public hearings held to discuss them. Self-described senior citizen advocate Vi Hill said the medical shuttle fare hike would hurt people on fixed incomes, but authority board members said even with the increase the transit agency was charging a small amount compared to the actual cost of the service.
The proposed 44% fare increase for the cost of a 44-ride pass on the San Fernando Valley line attracted substantial opposition from riders, who said any rate change should be accompanied by service improvements. The commuters said they would stop riding the buses if their one-way fares were raised from $2.25 to $3.25. It remains to be seen if the new fare will reduce the number of riders on the commuter route.
"When this is all analyzed, I think this is (still) a terrific bargain," said board member Davies.