LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Mayor Michael Antonovich Thursday introduced a motion at the Metro Board of Directors Meeting to allocate an additional $1.7 million for the purpose of ensuring 100 percent fare enforcement on all Metrolink Antelope Valley Line trains through June 30, 2015. This funding allows continuation and augmentation of a pilot program being implemented by Metrolink which began on October 31, 2014. The Metro Board approved the motion unanimously.
In October, Metrolink launched a full fare enforcement pilot program on the Antelope Valley Line to curb fare evasion on the system, adding assistant conductors to trains to help check for tickets. Metrolink also instituted a policy at Los Angeles Union Station to prevent people without a ticket from boarding the train, and provided aggressive fare inspections at the Glendale and Burbank stations to prevent passengers from making “short-buys”, where a passenger buys a ticket for a shorter (and less costly) trip than they intend to make.
The effort has also involved multiple conductor announcements, prominent signage at all stations and periodic security sweeps by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies at intermediate stops along the line.
The initial program was scheduled to conclude in December, but with the support of Mayor Antonovich and the Metro Board, the program will continue through June 2015.
Metrolink staff will return to the Metro Board by the June 2015 Board meeting to provide an evaluation of the program and its effectiveness in improving the quality and security of Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line service. Metrolink’s goal is to secure funding and resources to have 100 percent fare enforcement on all its lines spanning more than 500 miles of track in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and San Diego counties.
Now the Antelope Valley Line, running up into Lancaster and Palmdale, has the worst passenger reputation of any of Metrolink's lines. Logically, this line would have the highest rate of fare evasion. So how many people did the 100% fare enforcement program actually catch? Well, according to Metrolink (page 64), a total of 230 citations were issued and 507 people turned away for lack of a ticket during the period of November 1 to November 20. It sounds mildly impressive until you realize that this was for a total of 328 trains with a resulting average of 2 fare evaders caught per train. Or, put another way, it's 37 fare evaders per day, less than 1% of the total passenger load on that line. At an average yield of $6.46 per passenger (page 45), there would have to be over 260,000 fare evaders, nearly 1,500 every day, for this program to make sense.
In short, Los Angeles County and Metrolink are spending nearly two million dollars on a completely pointless feel good program that targets an evidently non-existant problem rather than doing something useful, like putting that money towards the estimated $24 million cost of replacing Metrolink's long outdated and constantly failing ticket vending machines or towards the cost of an online and mobile ticketing system.