Capacity crowd, expert panel unmask transit crisis at Town Hall
With a federal review of MTA's civil rights record still in progress, a standing room only-crowd of over 200 and an all-star panel exposed LA MTA's civil rights crisis at the Transit Justice Town Hall meeting Saturday.
Over 100 bus riders and allies gave oral and written testimony over three hours describing the harms caused by deep cuts in bus service, inadequate bus service, and increases in fares - all of which will be used for a report on the crisis to be released in September. The event was organized by the Bus Riders Union and sponsored by a city-wide multi-racial coalition of 35 organizations.
The day opened with panel of experts breaking down how transportation intersects with civil rights, environmental justice, public health and more.
• Dr. Robert Bullard, often called "the father of environmental justice" visiting from Atlanta : "Atlanta has a lot in common with LA -- monies are being diverted from buses into trains and rail and the disparate impact of service cuts as well as fare hikes and which population it hits the hardest."
• Connie Rice, nationally recognized civil rights attorney recounts being lead attorney for the BRU's landmark civil rights lawsuit: "The day we filed the complaint against MTA with Judge Terry Hatter was the day after Martin Luther King's Day and the last sentence of that complaint was a quote from Dr. King: ‘Transportation is a civil right issues because when people can't get to jobs, and get to hospitals, can't get ton schools, their lifeline to opportunity is ended.'"
• Guillermo Mayer, one of the nation's leading transportation civil rights attorney with the San Francisco-based Public Advocates: "All eyes are on LA because what's happening to your bus service is criminal."
• Martha Arguello, one of California's leading voices for public health as Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA : "We cannot have healthy communities if we do not fix our transportation system.'"
• Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair of the Bus Riders Union, breaks down the current crisis and our core demand: "We're asking the federal government to more than a compliance review - we want a full investigation of MTA [with] an emphasis on the cumulative of these service cuts and how they affect our mobility in this city."
In the last four years, MTA has cut muscle and bone from transit lifelines that low income communities of color rely on as they struggle to participate in the economic recovery. A new report from the BRU documents how MTA has slashed 941,000 hours, canceled 14 bus lines, and truncated or otherwise reduced another 25 routes, most heavily in the last two years - all while the agency's budget has ballooned from federal stimulus dollars and new sales tax revenue. On top of that, two fare hikes have raised fares 40-100%. Against this backdrop, MTA stands accused once again of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
We'd like to thank all our event sponsors:
Acción Westlake, ACLU of Southern California, Association of Communities United in South Los Angeles, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice-LA, Coalition for Clean Air, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Comite Pro-democracia de Mexico, Comunidad Presente, Communities for a Better Environment , East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Green LA Coalition, HOLA - Hispanos Organizados en Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle, Inquilinos Unidos, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, Korean Resource Center, Little Tokyo Service Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Public Counsel, Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles, Restaurant Opportunities Center - Los Angeles, SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, SEIU-United Service Workers West, Southeast Asian Community Alliance, Strategic Action for A Just Economy, Unification of Disabled Latin Americans, Union de Vecinos, UNITE HERE Local 11.
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