Rolling back civil rights: Major MTA bus service cuts hit hard in South and Southeast LA

Rolling back civil rights: Major MTA bus service cuts hit hard in South and Southeast LA

The MTA Board approved yesterday a package of bus service cuts that will be the biggest single reduction in bus service in Los Angeles County in more than 15 years. A total reduction of 387,000 bus service hours this year - 5% of the entire system - will include the elimination of 5 rapid lines 5 other local lines and partial elimination of service on other lines.

What does this mean? It will mean longer waits, more overcrowding, and more transfers that will result in an added financial burden to already struggling bus riders. And it will hit South and Southeast LA the hardest, where 3 rapid lines and 5 local lines were cut. This is a major setback for the civil rights of Black, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, low-income and immigrant bus riders, those who make up the lion's share of the riders on MTA's system and those that fought to get into the public sector and hold bus operator and mechanic jobs.

Rolling back the BRU consent decree

Los-Angeles-Bus-Example.pngIf implemented in December of 2010, these bus service cuts, could mean the elimination of over 500,000 bus service hours in just the last two years. This would represent over half of the 1 million service hours added as a result of the BRU's civil rights consent decree with MTA. Rapid Bus service was one of the major successes of the consent decree, yet the MTA has taken the first opportunity available to make major changes to Rapid service - changes prohibited by the sole remaining court order of the consent decree, which expires the first week of December, a week or so shy of when the proposes cuts are slated for implementation. On top of two major fare increases in just three years - doubling the price of the day pass and raising the monthly pass 44% -- these cuts help to re-create the very civil rights crisis in LA's transit system that led to our original Title VI lawsuit in 1994.

Ridley-Thomas, Villaraigosa, Huizar: Missing in Action.

Despite nearly 1000 signatures and hundreds of phone calls from bus riders opposing these cuts, MTA Board members representing heavily transit-dependent areas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and LA City Councilman Jose Huizar turned a blind eye and did nothing to defend the rights and protect the interests of their constituents. BRU members Judi Redman and Reggie Streeter, both lifelong residents of South LA, appealed directly to Supervisor Mark Ridley-untitled copy.jpgThomas, but their appeal fell on deaf ears -- Ridley-Thomas had literally walked out of the room while they and other BRU members were speaking. Much like the critical May 24th Board meeting where the BRU challenged the MTA's fare hike proposal, Mayor Villaraigosa didn't bother to show up. LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, one of the Mayor's appointees, barely raised an eyebrow the entire meeting. Supervisor Gloria Molina raised some more important questions about the agencies priorities - what does it mean that rail projects in the works have no money to operate and we are right now cutting bus service -- but in the end failed to take meaningful action and fell back on the tired argument that "we have to live within our means" - in other words, these cuts are a financial necessity.

"A record deficit" masking misguided priorities

But can MTA make any legitimate claim to really living within its means? The agency claims that these cuts are necessitated by a record budget deficit. Yet the agency has seen its annual budget grow by $600-$700 million in the last two years due to new revenue from the ½ cent sales tax Measure R. Yesterday, the Board moved forward with a $5 million project to build a pedestrian bridge and moved forward with plans to hire 20 new high-paid management level staff to implement the 30/10 Initiative - even though they don't yet have the money to implement 30/10 itself. These are just a couple of examples, but the bigger picture is that the agency moves forward with multi-billion dollar rail and construction projects that have little transit benefit and that dwarf the savings achieved through bus service cuts and fare increases. The LA Weekly just called the West Side Subway a $9 billion rip-off because the Environmental Impact Report shows very little if any relief to traffic congestion. When MTA celebrated the 20th anniversary of Metro Rail in June, leading LA transit experts publicly questioned the logic and effectiveness of rail in increasing transit use in the LA Times. The agency makes its priorities clear in how it spends its money - the gravy train of highway and rail construction, backed by political powerful contractors, moves forward while Black, Latino and low-income bus riders are sacrificed. If the political will existed from those elected officials who claim the mantle of civil rights to fight and change those priorities, things could be different.

Next stepsprotest.JPG

In the meantime, the BRU will continue organizing and mobilizing bus riders to press our demands even more strongly in the months to come. We will be exploring how to enlist the courts or the federal government to intervene against MTA's destructive path and civil rights rollbacks. Reverse the Service Cuts!!


Check out new Coverage of the cuts:

LA Weekly -Los Angeles Politicians Who Never Uses Buses Wipe Out Eight Metro Bus Lines: "On Backs Of Poor" Say Furious Riders

La opinion - peligran rutas del bus

Thank you for your comments. Two years ago we launched both State and Federal campaigns to leverage more transit dollars and specifically more operating dollars to run transit agencies such as the MTA.

The MTA is not only a "messenger" they are a powerful 13 person Board that set critical policy and make concrete decisions about how they spend the money that they do have, including the additional approximately $1 billion in new monies they have received in the last three years. 

I invite you to check out our Transit Riders for Public Transportation so that you can see the BRU on the federal scene and what we are doing with our allies in DC to leverage more money for public transit! Thanks again for your comments.

Those service cuts are, no doubt, horrible...
But the BRU needs to take more logical action by writing to the State (and Federal) officials, not plea to MTA; the latter rather acts as a middleman whereas the funding comes mostly from the State and Federal sources. Why do most transit agencies nationwide are forced to cut service and/or reduce prices? Because of lack of funding. Therefore, dear BRU - please go for the source, not for the messenger. Write letters to your legislators, senators; stop blaming MTA!