Monday, March 31, 2014

Raise L.A. Metro fares – and guarantee the service

Los Angeles Metro wants to charge more to ride their trains and buses. They've proposed increasing the cost of a single ride from $1.50 to $1.75 in September and, under one plan, to as much as $3.25 by 2021. A day pass would rise from $5 to as much as $13 by 2021.

I'm normally the first person to oppose rate hikes. But in this case, I say we give Metro the fare increase it wants  – as long as it comes with a money-back guarantee.

A what?

Here's how this guarantee would work: Whenever there's a problem that causes a delay of more than 30 minutes on any Metro line, ALL people who have used their Tap cards on that line in the prior hour would get their fares refunded. The money would simply be added back to their Tap accounts. The refunds would be automatic; Metro officials would have no discretion over this.

The logic of this approach is clear. First, riders shouldn't have to pay for a ride when Metro doesn't deliver them when the system has promised. In any consumer transaction, if one side doesn't fulfill its promise, it's obligated to compensate the other side.

Second, by forcing Metro to pay a price when its equipment breaks down, the agency would have a financial incentive to maintain and upgrade its trains, tracks and other infrastructure. It will make sense to buy new equipment to avoid breakdowns in the first place, rather than trying to limp along for years with faltering trains, faulty switches and aging electrical lines.

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