Instead Of Hiking LA Metro Fares, Why Not Tax Drivers Instead?



After a lovely 20 mile ride through the scenic LA river bike path, the spacious Forest Lawn Drive, the terrifying Highland Blvd freeway off-ramp and into Hollywood for a party, we decided to take the Metro home. Home is downtown Los Angeles, DTLA to the locals, and one can definitely say “all roads lead to home” when home is DTLA.

On this particular Metro ride though, we saw this poster advertising an upcoming public hearing about a fare hike. Being one of the 90% of Angelenos who rarely takes the mMtro, I was unaware of this hike. On March 29th, I plan to be at that hearing, being heard. While it’s great that they’re doing away with charging for transfers, it shouldn’t be at a cost that could send this brand-new subway system the way of the old Red Car line.

But first, let me take a moment to introduce my readers to 21st century Los Angeles. Yes, 20th century Los Angeles was a car town, but now in 2014 we actually have 87 miles of rail serving a whopping 3.5% of the county’s residents. If you limit it to LA City, instead of the entire 4,752 sq miles of the county, it’s more like 9.2% of the population. So yes, we have a subway system, started in 1990, but most Angelenos would rather sit around and waste money on gas and things like tickets for texting while driving than discover what lies beneath the traffic.

DTLA traffic 110
20th Century LA

Once upon a time, Los Angeles had over 1,000 miles of rail lines. Then they suffered a “revenue shortfall” and replaced those rail lines with buses provided by the likes of General Motors. Now that Los Angeles’ population has skyrocketed exponentially, people are starting to rediscover the appeal in mass transit and options other than cars. This is good, considering we’re estimated to add another 2.4 million sun-worshippers by 2030.

Yet LA Metro wants to nip all that in the bud and be sure we’re happy in our shiny little cages, err cars. Rather than do something sensible, like charge a congestion tax to subsidize the Metro, they’re proposing a fare hike. A fare hike on the means of transportation most needed by the city’s poorest, at a time when this mode of transit is becoming more popular!

We’ve built this gorgeous metro system that travels far and wide, is fast, and pleasant to ride. Yet most Angelenos don’t have much of an incentive to discover it, aside from poverty or a DUI. Some companies offer transit vouchers, but that’s really not enough. There need to be more disincentives to driving than just the risk of being caught staring at your phone or smoking a joint. Yes, many Angelenos find driving so unbearable they have to get stoned WHILE they’re doing it. It’s a bad scene man, and it’s not getting any better.

As the map above shows clearly, there are enough wealthy people driving into DTLA to subsidize the Metro system, and if that sounds too socialist for you, well, think of it as an incentive for people who want to drive their cars without traffic. Every potential driver on the Metro system is one less driver on our clogged highway system.

So how can we inspire more people to take the transit while keeping costs down? By adding a $12.50/month tax to parking cost, the city could pay the $36.8 million the Metro will need by 2016 and inspire more people to go metro. That’s the cost of about three gallons of gas, and taking the Metro also adds an extra level of peace of mind, even for the well-off.

Taking the Metro sure beats having to pack safety cones in your Lambo…

DTLA Lambo parking

About the Author

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it’s only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles’ streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she’s converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.

  • UKGary

    Congestion charge costs around $16.50 PER DAY to drive into central London, with fuel at around $9 a US gallon, and a hefty tax to run a company car. In addition, parking in central London is around $4 to $5 per hour on street or more in multi-story car parks. Even with these high costs, pollution levels frequently exceed mandatory limits, and the UK faces the possibility of huge fines from the EU for failing to ensure compliant air quality.

    Surely the air quality argument must apply equally to LA so a cross subsidy to reduce congestion and improve the quality of air everyone is breathing would surely make sense.

    • susannaschick

      wow! it’s a shame pollution is still that bad. with so many astoundingly wealthy people in that city, I’m sure the charge is not enough, sadly. maybe it should be pro-rated based on income? or those fines should be paid by the wealthiest violators, instead of coming out of everyone’s tax bill.

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  • susannaschick

    Side note- the figure I came up with is based on an estimate of 166,000 drivers commuting into downtown LA every day. Their monthly parking rate would be taxed, which could raise the money needed within 2 years. Sooner, if I underestimated. The only number I could find was 10 years old, and I bumped it up the same percentage that the population of LA county has increased since then.

    If more parking lots were taxed, more money could be raised. If cameras or transponders were used to enforce congestion as they do in London, this could be charged directly to the driver, but would require a much bigger capital outlay.