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Metrolink's Fare Cut Is on Right Track : L.A. Can Learn From Bay Area, Where Mass Transit Declined After Loma Prieta Quake

March 20, 1994

Transportation officials who want to persuade more residents in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys to use mass transit instead of their cars should borrow a few lessons from a northern neighbor.

In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, only 5% of Bay Area commuters made long-term commitments to mass transit. In fact, the brief love affairs with other forms of transportation in the Bay Area didn't just sour--as they have begun to here. One year after the Loma Prieta quake, single-occupant vehicles accounted for virtually all of the growth in traffic in that region. And mass transit and car-pools accounted for smaller shares of Bay Area traffic than they had before the quake.

That bodes ill for the Los Angeles area, where a repeat seems already to be in progress. The same commuters who flocked to Metrolink trains in the immediate aftermath of the Northridge quake have already begun to return to their cars. That is most unfortunate because this region must attempt to eliminate traffic gridlock and begin to work toward a more efficient and far less vulnerable 21st-Century transportation system.

Fortunately, Metrolink has begun to take some steps to recapture some of its post-quake ridership surge. It announced this past week that the cost of monthly commuter passes from the Antelope Valley to Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles will be cut in half for the next three months. The cost of a pass for travel from Santa Clarita to the same destinations were reduced by 25%.

On Wednesday, Metrolink went further by announcing across-the-board fare reductions for Burbank-bound passengers from Ventura County and the west San Fernando Valley. Prices have also been scaled back on single and 10-trip tickets. (Metrolink officials say that they expect to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the costs of the temporary reductions.)

Lower fares are a sensible idea that might encourage more car commuters to give up the agony of the streets for an anxiety-free ride to work.

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