July 19--Metrolink plans to eliminate four trains on its San Bernardino line due to a funding dispute with San Bernardino County's transportation planning agency.
Starting Oct. 1, two mid-day and two late-night trains will be cut from the line that runs from San Bernardino to Union Station in Los Angeles on weekdays. Those affected are the 12:20 p.m. train from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, the 2 p.m. train from San Bernardino to Union Station, the 11 p.m. train from Los Angeles and the 9:05 p.m. train from San Bernardino.
Those routes have the lowest ridership and were selected because they would have the least impact on passengers, said Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten.
Metrolink will still have 18 trains running in each direction weekdays starting at 4:06 a.m. from San Bernardino.
The commuter rail service approved the changes July 11 after San Bernardino Associated Governments denied Metrolink's request for an 8.8 percent increase in local funding subsidies and would only grant 3 percent, Lustgarten said.
SANBAG is one of five regional transportation agencies that make up the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which oversees Metrolink. The other four counties -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura -- all agreed to the funding request needed to make up a budget shortfall, Lustgarten said.
Metrolink's only other option would have been to increase fares, but it did not want to implement that change, because it just had a fare increase last year, he said.
Ray Wolfe, executive director of SANBAG, said the agency decided to hold the line at growing funding requests from Metrolink. Last year, it sought a 20 percent hike but settled on about 10 percent.
SANBAG's funding for Metrolink comes through state local transit funds apportioned throughout the county to transit agencies such as the Omnitrans bus service, which saw its annual funding increase limited to three percent last year, Wolfe said. The agency also hopes to use that fund in the future for the planned Gold Line extension into San Bernardino, he said.
Wolfe said SANBAG cannot sustain continued large annual increases and believes Metrolink needs to start looking at cutting its costs in other ways.
"Our board said 'Enough is enough. We're going to cap you this year at 3 percent,'" he said.
Wolfe said Metrolink has a tough job and that SANBAG did not oppose cutting the trains. He said the schedule still allows for a train on the San Bernadino line at least every hour.
Contact the writer: 951-368-9558 or email@example.com
Copyright 2014 - The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.