MTA tries to deflect attention away from its civil rights crisis and current federal probe

MTA CEO Art Leahy spins minor clarifications and development on federal procedure
Contact Information: 

Sunyoung Yang, 213.387.2800

Los Angeles MTA CEO Art Leahy’s public statement on the clarification of BRU’s appeal rights issued over a week ago by the FTA is a clear attempt to deflect attention away from the real crisis that continues to plague this agency. Last year, our complaint to the Federal Transit Administration alleged civil rights violations in MTA’s bus service cut. FTA informed us in March that they would conduct a comprehensive civil rights compliance review of MTA in part as a response to our allegations. Then last week, with that review still in progress, a region-wide coalition of 14 organizations led by the BRU released a new report, Transit Civil Rights & Economic Survival in Los Angeles: A Case for Federal Intervention in LA Metro, further indicting the MTA for civil rights violations. Anyone reading FTA’s letter to the BRU on our appeal request can see that it was a purely procedural matter that had nothing to do with the merits of our allegations.  Having cut close to one million hours of bus service while raising fares 40% in just four years, Leahy and the agency’s public relations team are at pains to defend unjustifiable and discriminatory policies. Community leaders from Boyle Heights to South LA, labor unions, environmentalists, and doctors now view MTA as a bad actor. The agency is seen as standing in the way of economic recovery and survival for hundreds of thousands of transit-dependent low income Latino, Black, and Asian Pacific Islander bus riders.  This coalition is calling on the FTA to make a strong and swift intervention to force MTA to reverse course. 

A quick review of the federal civil rights review of MTA and the BRU’s role:       

  • LA MTA was one of only two agencies nationwide – along with Atlanta’s MARTA – to be selected this year by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to receive an on-site civil rights compliance review. This is the most thorough type of review the FTA performs each year and it is the first time since the end of 10-year federal consent decree that MTA was selected for this level of scrutiny. 
  • As the FTA stated in a letter from March of this year, LA MTA was selected in part as a response to allegations of racially discriminatory bus service cuts made in a November, 2010 administrative complaint submitted to FTA by the BRU. The BRU was very pleased that the FTA chose to conduct a compliance review that would in fact be broader in scope than the kind of investigation we requested. 
  • Contrary to the claims of Art Leahy, BRU did not submit a second request for an investigation in June, 2011. Rather, we submitted a supplemental brief to the FTA when we met face-to-face with their review team at FTA’s LA office in July, 2011. Our supplemental brief updated the FTA on the deep set of bus service cuts approved by the MTA Board in March, 2011 and made additional arguments that supported our original claims.
  • Our appeal to the FTA was a procedural request, based in the complex FTA guidelines, to shift our role in the review process and did not raise any substantive issues. Likewise, FTA’s decision not to grant this request has nothing to do with the substantive issues we raised in our original complaint.       
  • FTA’s announcement on the final findings of the civil rights compliance review of MTA is still pending