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Downtown Fare Zone: Quick Boost for Metro Rail's Utility

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, November 26, 2007, at 09:06AM

Downtown Fare Zone Map

Our recent Downtown Connector thread sparked sixty comments, proof that there are certainly readers with strong opinions on Downtown and regional transit. The Connector is an important project that has great potential to increase connectivity through Downtown. As of right now, though, it's still just plans awaiting decisions and funding. Any benefit won't be realized for at least a decade.

A recent trip to Chinatown got me thinking. What could we do right now to improve Downtown connectivity with little added expense?

My suggestion: improve transfers by creating the Downtown Fare Zone.

A few weeks back I met up with Kathy and her class for a field trip they were taking to Homeboy Industries. I hopped the Red Line up to Union Station, but balked at the thought of paying another $1.25 to ride the Gold Line just a single stop to Chinatown. Instead I walked up Alameda to get there. A similar situation comes when taking the Blue Line. I'll walk to 7th and Metro every time instead of hopping the Red Line at the closer Pershing Square station, largely because it just doesn't make sense to pay a full fare to travel just one stop.

Thus the idea of the Downtown Fare Zone: Trips to or from any station inside the fare zone do not require the rider to purchase a transfer. Trips entirely inside the Fare Zone would still require a valid fare.

Coming up from Long Beach and headed to Pershing Square? Your Blue Line ticket is valid to get you there. Heading back? Your Red Line ticket, purchased within the Fare Zone, would be valid for travel down to your destination. Coming in from Pasadena to see a Laker game? Your Gold Line fare will get you all the way to Pico station.

The Downtown Fare Zone would be composed at its core of the Red Line stations from 7th/Metro to Union Station, plus one additional station on each line. For the Red Line that would mean Westlake / Macarthur Park would make it inside. For the Blue that would include Pico station. For the Gold you would get Chinatown, plus soon the Little Tokyo / Arts District station on the Eastside Extension.

The Fare Zone would require no technical changes for implementation. Metro would need to educate Fare Inspectors on the stations included, and then would simply need to advertise the new-found flexibility.

Granted, the Downtown Fare Zone reduces theoretical revenue from patrons transferring for the last (or first) leg of their trip. Instead of a trip from Long Beach to Pershing costing $2.50, it would now generate just $1.25. I would argue, though, that this extra leg of revenue is not being realized in most cases. I think many people do as I did on my trip to Chinatown and just walk those last blocks instead of having to pay again. That means that actual revenue loss should be minimal.

The upside benefits from improving the rail system's usefulness to get in and out of and around Downtown should more than make up for any minimal fare loss. I know I personally would ride the rails more given this configuration, and the solution benefits those who are from outside of Downtown just as equally as it does those of us living here.

To me, this solution is win-win. I'm going to send the idea around and see if I can get some official responses, but as always I'd love to hear first and foremost what those of you who read this site have to say.


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