MTA - No Matter How You Spin it, You're Rolling Back Civil Rights
A Public Response to Art Leahy: No matter how you spin it, Metro policies roll back civil rights and dismantle the bus system
Metro CEO Art Leahy's recent "Message to our customers and taxpayers" attempts to justify a series of changes that force customers and taxpayers to pay more and get less for it. The current proposal to cut 355,000 hours of bus service, eliminate 11 bus lines completely, and reduce or truncate 16 others comes on the heels of last year cutting of 9 lines and 5% of total service while raising fares by 20%. If the current proposal is adopted by the Metro Board next month, the cumulative cuts in the last four years would be close to over 900,000 hours, 12% of the total system. In a January interview posted on Metro's website, Leahy justified cuts by saying that the current service is "excessive," "redundant" and "wasteful" and that there are too many bus lines. Leahy's comments reflect a two-faced contempt for 500,000 working class majority-of-color transit-dependent Angelenos who navigate their lives on this under-resourced and over-burdened system daily. Our base - who face that same two-faced contempt from public officials as they dismantle our public schools, cut unionized public sector jobs and vital social services, and pour more tax dollars into criminalizing our people -- will continue to mobilize and fight. The BRU will continue as the "class representative", not just in the courts but in the streets.
Leahy, Metro and the Consent Decree - Making a mockery of civil rights.
When Leahy recently blamed the BRU's Civil Rights Consent Decree for "an artificially high level of [bus] service" he dismissed in one fell swoop a 10-year process of federal court-ordered bus expansion to rectify Metro's violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His comments - and the agency's actions - have also made a mockery of Metro's public pledge at the end of the Decree "that Metro is committed to sustaining the improvements made to the bus system...[that] [n]obody at Metro wants to turn back the clock and undo all the progress we have made." The successive rounds of cuts - made most aggressively during Leahy's tenure - have done so at a shocking pace: if the current proposal goes through more than 75% of the 1.3 million hours added during the 10-year Decree will have disappeared in four years, with special focus in the last year on dismantling the highly successful Rapid Bus Program (5 Rapids cut in December, another two proposed for elimination and five for truncation or reduction in June). Leahy claims the agency will not return to levels of overcrowding that existed before the consent decree, but we would remind Mr. Leahy policies that discouraging ridership by providing poor service and raising fares is no solution to overcrowding nor is it a way to ensure that the civil rights of bus riders are continually protected.
Measure R, 30/10, and the false cry of hard times:
Leahy is not the first Metro CEO to falsely invoke the specter of budget deficits to justify bus service cuts. In doing so, he ignores a not-so-painful reality: steep cuts and fare increases have happened alongside a $600-$700 million growth in Metro's annual budget, largely from the 2009 half-cent sales tax, Measure R, and reinstatement of state transportation funds. If Mr. Leahy is concerned with fulfilling his promise to taxpayers, we would remind him that Measure R - which the BRU opposed - dedicated 20% of its funds to improve the bus system. The BRU even outlined a plan on how to do that. Yet now, with the 30/10 Plan putting Measure R on speed, our worst fears have been confirmed: a rail spending frenzy is in full effect, with new "project management" staff, consultants, and lucrative construction contracts, excessive borrowing against future revenue - and the only recognizable Long Range Plan for the bus system is to slowly and steadily take it apart. Leahy effectively admitted that current and possible future bus service cuts are necessitated not so much by budget deficits but by the rail capital expansion under Measure R and 30/10: "If we don't do these things, the capital program" - i.e. the program to build more transit - "is not sustainable."
"Efficiency" in the bus means = longer trips and fewer riders - Rail not Held to Same Standard:
Overall county-wide transit ridership peaked in 2007 after 10 years of Consent Decree service expansion and low fares, but dropped 8% since then in a period when demand for public transit nationwide has skyrocketed nationally. Increasing rail boardings by 7.5 million while losing 57 million bus boardings does not show rail's success, but rather the failure of an overall policy, of which rail expansion, fare increases, and bus service cuts are all central features. Moreover, calling the bus system inefficient is laughable when compared to, for example, the Gold Line East Side Extension complete in 2009: 5000 daily riders for a $900 million constructions costs. $250 million spent on cost over-runs alone for the soon-to-open Expo Line Phase One would have, if used for the bus system, made it possible to avoid all service cuts for five years. As transit-dependent people on the East Side will tell you, new rail lines mean bus service cuts that require more transfers, longer travel time and more money paid in fares - lower rather than higher quality service over all. LA County's other transit operators will not simply make up the difference for the Metro service being slashed. For some passengers, it will mean their commute to a job they have (or one they're seeking) becomes simply impossible. This is the opposite of efficiency for our people.
Villaraigosa, Ridley-Thomas, Molina & Huizar: If you don't answer, we'll call Washington
Nearly two decades ago, with the support of a young Board Member named Antonio Villaraigosa, the BRU successfully solicited federal intervention to fix LA's transportation civil rights train wreck. Today, those Board members representing transit-dependent low-income communities of color - Mayor Villaraigosa, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina, and City Councilor Jose Huizar - must take a stand to protect this critical service. Absent action from the Board, we need the Obama Administration to intervene and insist that Metro get back on the track of civil rights and sensible policy-making.
About Esperanza Martinez
- Jan 29 2013
- Jan 22 2013