Consent Decree Compliance

Billions for Buses, Fight Transit Racism

MTA/BRU Civil Rights Consent Decree

In October of 1996, the BRU won a landmark civil rights Consent Decree, following the class action civil rights lawsuit brought against the Los Angeles MTA in 1994. The case, Labor/Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union et al. v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was brought by the BRU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to challenge racial discrimination in the transportation policies of the MTA.

The suit charged the MTA with violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by establishing a discriminatory, separate, and unequal transportation system while using federal funds. The agreement, signed by both the MTA and the BRU, is a 10-year contract in which MTA is obligated to improve L.A.'s bus system and make the bus system and the transit dependent its first priority for funding. The agreement places the Bus Riders Union in a unique role as the court-appointed class representative of L.A.'s 400,000 bus riders.

The primary objective of the Consent Decree is to remedy decades of MTA policies of racial discrimination. When the BRU first brought this case to court, such policies had virtually destroyed the bus system-the transit lifeline to employment, education, public services, extended family, cultural and recreational sites for 400,000 bus riders who are nearly 90% people of color, 60% women, and overwhelmingly low-income.

Main Components of the BRU Civil Rights Consent Decree

  • Fare reduction
  • Reduction of bus overcrowding
  • New Service to major centers of employment, education and healthcare throughout the county
  • Joint Working Group (joint BRU and MTA policy making body that oversees the implementation of the Consent Decree)


The BRU has literally saved public transportation in Los Angeles. At the time of the signing of the Consent Decree, the MTA bus fleet was less than 2,100 buses, almost all diesel, more than half were totally dilapidated, many with more than 500,000 miles and ages of 14 to 20 years. That is, they did not run and those that did run broke down and polluted. People were chronically late to work, school and medical services. Through the BRU's legal and grassroots organizing and advocacy, the MTA has agreed to dramatic improvements in the bus system, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in bus improvements for low-income transit dependent riders. These victories have included:

  • Reducing the monthly bus pass-which the MTA had tried to eliminate-to $42 a month (from $49), and creating the first $11 weekly bus pass. Consequently, bus pass use has increased and low-income riders have saved tens of millions of dollars each year. Lower cost transit has led to a significant increases in transit use since 1996!
  • 2,100 New clean fuel CNG buses to replace a mostly diesel fleet.
  • Fleet Expansion by more than 300 buses
  • Generating the first Rapid Bus lines that dramatically reduce transit times on major surface streets.

Case History, Documents

 Click here to view more detailed case history and legal documents.