LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Officials hope new commuter trains will help ease congestion on the area's crowded freeways, but suburbanites say the ticket prices may keep them from climbing aboard.

The Metrolink rail line begins serving suburban valleys Monday, offering free rides for the first week. Ticket prices after than will be based on distance.

For example, a commuter from Moorpark to Los Angeles, a 47-mile trip, will pay $12 for a round-trip ticket and $176 for a monthly pass.

Metrolink officials say that's cheaper than driving alone, when gas, parking, maintenance and other costs are factored in. But commuters are skeptical.

''There is no one in our office ... who can afford it,'' said Irene Saltzman, who takes a bus to her job as an analyst for the city Department of Public Works.

Joan Boulden, who arranges car and van pools at Atlantic Richfield Co.'s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, said employees there also have complained about the high ticket prices.

''The time saving and ease of travel do not seem to make up for the expense,'' she said.

Richard Stanger, Metrolink's executive director, said fares may be adjusted after a few months if the system fails to attract enough riders.

Metrolink was financed by a $1 billion statewide bond measure passed in 1990.

The system initially will provide weekday rush-hour service to Los Angeles' Union Station from eastern Ventura County and the Santa Clarita and Pomona valleys. An Orange County route has been in operation for about a month.

Metrolink will be expanded to San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties by mid-1994.

California voters will vote next month on another $1 billion bond measure to finance other rail expansion projects.

Los Angeles' first subway, a 4 1/2 -mile leg running from the city's Union Station to the Wilshire District, may open as early as December.

The subway system eventually will extend more than 20 miles to the mid-city area, East Los Angeles, Hollywood and North Hollywood.