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Los Angeles Bus Cuts: MTA Axes 305,000 More Hours of Service, Stranding Low-Income Workers in L.A. Outskirts

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Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge The 757, from Hollywood through Koreatown, will no longer run on weekends. - BEVERLY PRESS
  • Beverly Press
  • The 757, from Hollywood through Koreatown, will no longer run on weekends.
About every six months, we receive a deja-vu press release from the Bus Riders Union, furious at the Metropolitan Transit Authority for a new wave of massive cuts to the decrepit L.A. bus system.

The cuts, little by little, are stranding the city's lowest earners hours from their workplaces, with no mod metro station (which MTA officials always offer as consolation) in sight. The MTA rationale for this new round of cuts, which begins on Monday, is that, on average, only 42 percent of L.A. bus seats are filled. Here, we explain why that argument makes us want to crush some serious skull.

Also: Will you be out of a ride next Monday? List of changes, after the jump.

It's true that the subway system in L.A. is inching toward relevancy as politicians talk Obama into pitching in more federal funds. (It's not too difficult: Many other states can't handle the transit revolution right now, and the POTUS is a total rail romanticist.)

But until billions upon billions are poured into new subway lines -- partly to fight off the legions of angry homeowners/environmental activists who oppose them -- the $12,000-per-year working class is left out in the cold.

"We're living in a 4,000-square-mile county," says Bus Riders Union spokeswoman Sunyoung Yang. "And our job systems are not concentrated. ... Because of the costs and the years that it take to construct [new rail lines], what happens in the meantime? People can't physically get where they need to go."

Here are the lines that will be eliminated completely by Monday: The 902, the 26 (from Echo Park into downtown), the 442, the 445, the 335, the 247 and the 634. Over 20 more will be truncated and merged; get the complete list here.

Yang says she has calculated a total of 28 affected lines -- and more than half of those, she says, actually see above-average ridership. On a nationwide level, it's also worth noting that L.A. has the most crowded bus system after New York.

Rick Jager, MTA spokesman, notes that eight lines will also be augmented. But overall, the system is losing 305,000 hours of bustime, saving $20 million per year.

"People hate change," Jager says. "Anytime there's talk about modifying services, people are concerned about that -- because it changes their routine."

Former transit official Thomas Rubin debunks the notion that 42 percent ridership is a low figure, via LA Streetsblog:

Unlike an airline flight from LAX to JFK, Metro buses make many stops along their routes to pick up and drop off passengers. Bus scheduling is developed around the maximum carrying capacity of a bus at the peak load point of the route during the peak ridership period. This means that, for much of the day, and for most of even the busiest bus trips, there are a lot of empty seats. That's the nature of the transit business.

Art Leahy, CEO of the MTA, was given op-ed space in the LA Daily News today to defend the June cuts. He talks for a bit about all the lovely new subway stations -- "Witness the Kodak Theater, home of the Oscars, which sits atop a Metro Rail station, the lodestone of sports and entertainment ... at Staples Center downtown, and plans by NBC/Universal to relocate their headquarters above the ... Universal City station" -- and pats himself on the back for cracking down on bus promptness since he stepped into office almost three years ago.

(The Bus Riders Union, on the other hand, notes that over the last four years, L.A. city bus ridership has decreased 12 percent. Leahy would attribute that to subway and municipal bus-system growth, but the union calls BS.)

In his piece, Leahy breaks out all the classic MTA stops:

"Angelenos voted with their pocketbooks for a new more balanced transit system that would move people cheaper and often faster than they could slog through congested streets and freeways. They voted to retain a solid bus program and fare subsidies, but they also voted for a massive expansion of rail. We need both. ...

That doesn't mean the pendulum has swung back to rail. It means we must finally recognize the dynamics of transit here are changing. Rather than duplicating bus and rail routes and wasting scarce public resources, we must better integrate the various public transit services."

In East L.A., commuters would tell you a different story. The replacement of the 30 and 31 bus lines with the Gold Line subway has meant many more blocks of walk time, which doesn't work well for the elderly and disabled (or anyone with time constraints).

And an in-the-works $930 million Expo Line, which the MTA will use to justify the shrinking of eight South L.A. bus lines later this year, is going to leave many crannies of the city inaccessible via public transit. Subways are less flexible than buses -- with fewer stops and hardly any turns.

Bus riders protested the cuts this morning, then stopped by L.A. City Hall to beg councilmembers to do something about all this. But, as usual, that won't change the fact that the cuts go into affect on Monday. The union's biggest hope at this point is a federal civil-rights investigation into MTA budget decisions that begins in July, hinging on the fact that 92 percent of bus riders are minorities with an average income of $12,000.

"The vast majority of these cuts are going to affect the profoundly poor in this city and the working-class people," a protester told CBS2 today. "We will never see economic recovery in South L.A. or anywhere else without access to quick, efficient transportation."

The slightly higher-income black city of Hawthorne had a good showing at the MTA meeting last night. Community members were there to vouch for the 442 -- a bus that connects the small city in southeast southwest L.A. County to jobs downtown.

No luck. MTA decided the line will be completely eliminated once a single stop for the 115 is instituted at the Manchester Harbor Transitway Station. For many commuters, this will add hours to their go-between.

Happy Monday, right? At least them Westsiders got their bus lane.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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