Re: “Derailed Dreams” by Charles Rappleye [March 29–April 4]. The Bus Riders Union is not only bad for L.A.’s transit future but an insult to the civil rights movement. And it’s not just about rail. Salaried BRU organizers have opposed busways, the Rapid Bus program, the upcoming Universal Fare Smart Card technology and a study to allow college students to receive subsidized transit passes. Sound hysterical? At a recent MTA meeting, they passed out fliers stating that the East L.A. light-rail project would disturb the dead at nearby Evergreen Cemetery and cause cancer in the living.

The BRU knows that federal dollars earmarked for capital improvements have not one penny to do with bus operating funds but constantly repeat the lie that it is “bus money stolen for rail.” When cornered with the truth, they simply shout the lie louder and scream racism. Do we really have to have our future held hostage to race-baiting liars?

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—Roger Christensen Sherman Oaks


In Charles Rappleye’s condemnation of the predilection of the Bus Riders Union for buses over rail, he declares that rail is a “faster, more comfortable alternative to the bus.” Is he not ignoring the obvious fact that buses go everywhere while rail can serve only certain corridors? It would be helpful to see a more substantial analysis.

—Kirby Baker Los Angeles

Charles Rappleye described the Consent Decree non-decision by the Supreme Court with precision. The only thing more troublesome than the lousy bus service of the MTA is the decision to improve it with a Consent Decree that puts too much power in the hands of a single judge.

Rail is indeed part of the answer, as is improved bus service, with or without more buses. They’re not mutually exclusive. A three-part approach to mass transit is quite simple:

1) More buses to areas that need access to the larger-capacity (i.e., higher-ridership) transit corridors; 2) rapid bus service along those corridors that have a higher ridership, to ensure smoother and quicker service; 3) rail and/or subway lines in those corridors that have much too high ridership for buses to be a real solution.

The Bus Riders Union’s fixation pushes the first part of the solution at the expense of the other two. I am a physician who for years has treated minority patients, many transit-dependent, and I am appalled by the "racialist" — i.e., racist — contentions of Eric Mann and the BRU. Pushing the race card at inappropriate junctures is what has given liberalism such a black eye for the last 10 to 15 years, and limiting a rail system that is used predominantly by minority riders is an excellent example of this counterproductive trend.

The BRU claims that rail serves predominantly white, suburban neighborhoods. Are they referring to the Blue Line, which serves a predominantly black and brown area between Long Beach and L.A.? Are they referring to the Gold Line, which will serve predominantly Latino East L.A.? Are they referring to the first phase of the Exposition Light Rail, which will be in the mid-city and serve predominantly black South Los Angeles?

I only hope Judge Bliss will now recognize that the Consent Decree does not entitle the BRU to "own" the MTA, which has for several years striven greatly to meet the spirit of the Consent Decree’s push to improve bus service. The BRU members who have been sold a bill of goods by the egotistical and dangerous Eric Mann need to remember that the same rail system that goes right up to their headquarters (as the Red Line does, you know) will predominantly be used by bus riders. The clueless sponsors of the BRU who pay Mr. Mann’s overpaid salary need to see how he has trashed the image of the BRU and replace him immediately with a less confrontational and more results-oriented leader.

Kenneth Alpern, M.D. Los Angeles

Your column accurately states that more buses stuck in the same traffic will not get us to a better place. If we accept that our freeways are already used by many more vehicles than their design capacity, and anticipate the continued growth in our human and vehicle populations, we should focus on two things: 1) securing the maximum amount of federal, state and other funding for our transportation systems, and (2) making sure that we spend those funds wisely.

In his brief tenure in Los Angeles, I believe that MTA chief Roger Snoble has demonstrated the vision and the skills to move us all forward. Eric Mann has shown nothing of the sort, yet he has somehow arrived at a position where he can hurt us all. I cringe.

Andrew Shaddock Manhattan Beach

If the Bus Riders Union were truly dedicated to helping out transit riders, they could attempt to achieve their goals through bond measures or initiatives, as rail advocates did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Instead, the BRU has become a bully with its brainwashed members chanting six-year-old slogans about "transit racism" that hardly seem appropriate for a light-rail system that runs through the heart of Compton and South Los Angeles. Is it racist to provide commuters with better options? With oil supplies dwindling, traffic increasing and environmental pollution remaining a constant concern, rail transit in Los Angeles is a necessity, not a luxury.

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