By Cynthia Lagunas
The Metro board meeting on March 27 resulted in a bus fare increase that will be effective around July 1.
As an East Los Angeles College student my daily transportation to school and work is the Metro bus.
The increase will bring the fare to SmarTrip card users to $1.75, a 15 cent increase.
There is a constant struggle when planning my daily trip. There are always obstacles, which include the buses running behind schedule or short hours of certain bus lines.
During ELAC’s winter session, I took a night class, so my struggle was taking the bus back, which passed only once an hour. This made a 20-minute driving route into a hour and a half bus trip.
Sometimes I get to work late and it’s due to the bus running late.
I decided to take the bus to school and work because I have to. It’s not by choice.
Some people have no other means of transportation and depend on the bus, which include low-income families, minorities, people with disabilities, students and elderly people.
Metro data shows that an 80 percent of Metro users are minorities with an average household income of $20,000 or less.
The increase in fares will affect me directly because there are times when I struggle to find extra money for the bus.
Sometimes I have to find alternative city buses that offer their services for less than a dollar or for free.
I do not agree with the Metro fare increase. This means that on top of the school and work load stress now students have to deal with the increase of their only source of transportation.
For those paying in cash, it is actually cheaper going from a 20 cent surcharge to 15 cents.
MetroAccess riders dominated the public hearing which rewarded them with a decrease in the fare from $7 to $6.50.
According to a Los Angeles Times article, more than 500 activists, which included students and low- wage workers, gathered at the Metro boardroom in downtown Los Angeles.
“Not only has the economy made it difficult for students to be individuals in society with total independence, but transportation has been solely relied on carrying a student pass. This increase has only created a higher stress on me,” ELAC student Shirley Vidal said.
The proposal shared by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially announced that unless there is a fare hike, the budget will fall short in 2016 to $36 million operating budget to what could increase to be a $225 million budget.
If the Metro bus fares do not increase then there will need to be a cut of 1,000 employees and cut hours and rail services by 2015.
The buses already lack what they are suppose to provide: they are not always on time and some pass hourly, which means that I have to plan my trip an hour or more before my class starts.
I have to be in a rush all the time even when I manage to be out of my house two hours in advance.
College students face yet another obstacle that does not benefit them, but only makes it harder to reach other goals, such as saving to buy a new car or managing to pay their bills.
For those who make more than the $20,000 annually, a 25 cent increase is not radical but for those struggling to make end’s meet, this is a big problem.
In Metro’s defense, they explain how the budget will be used to improve buses.
They plan to build new facilities and plan to open new lines, but then again this still leaves the low- income families and individuals in the midst of figuring out how they will get to work or school.
In my situation, this only makes it harder to become an independent student.
Saving money for a new car has to be divided with bus money, my bills, and any extra expenses such as school supplies and food.
It’s an unfair situation when those who do not have a choice will be forced to pay an increased bus fare on top of their normal expenses: gas, food, school costs and housing situations all of which are basic needs.