Civil Rights Groups Indict Metro for Discriminatory Practices

Maybe metro just wants poor people to walk more and stay healthy...
Maybe metro just wants poor people to walk more and stay healthy...

Only 10 percent of Los Angeles County Metro's ridership is white, according to a report authored by L.A. civil rights, labor, environmental, and public health organizations. To complete the very simple arithmetic, that means 90 percent is made up of everyone else in the amazingly diverse salad bowl that is Los Angeles (and, no, that does not include white kids who think they might have a great-great-grandmother who is half Navajo Indian).

At a 1 p.m. press conference today outside the Metro headquarters across from Union Station, the coalition, which includes the Bus Riders Union and Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, will release a "scathing indictment" against the Los Angeles Metro of what they deem discriminatory treatment.

According to the report, fare increases and cuts, over $100 million, in services have hit the working class and immigrant communities the hardest because the they ride public transit the most. In essence they are "paying more for less."

Bus Riders Union lead organizer Esperanza Martinez believes that the money taken from the bus services is being transfered to the highly publicized rail projects.

"If you look at these last set of cuts," says Martinez, "you can see the hours they cut from the buses and then see how they added hours to rail."

She believes the additional bus-related funds accrued from Measure R are being used as "back fill," like a savings account, for an operating deficit. That "back fill" money then, in theory, could be used towards rail projects.

And Martinez says the rail does not serve the a large sector of Los Angeles' native community and that Metro does not "place black, brown, and working class people at the center."

The report says that since these working class communities rely on public transit, mostly buses, to get around, buses should be Metro's priority.

Here is another juicy excerpt from the report:

In fact, Metro has reduced bus service and increased rail service in spite of evidence that Metro Bus, as a system, enjoys a higher capacity utilization, a lower operating cost per boarding, and a lower subsidy per boarding than light rail as well as comparable capacity utilization to heavy rail.

It goes on to show that rail lines have a higher proportion of white riders, including the gold line at 28 percent caucasian ridership. The gold rail-line receives almost $6 million in annual subsidies while the entire bus line, excluding the orange rapid bus line, receives less than $2 million.

On top of all this, Metro continues to pour hundreds of millions into rail projects, such as Villaraigosa's "Subway to the Sea," which needs an extra $60 million to move away from an earthquake fault at Century City.

Maybe some separated bus lanes, like the one OK'd for Wilshire Boulevard, would be better for L.A. (even if that means white people sharing space with their black, Latino, and Asian brethren).

The coalition is hoping the report will help shed light on these discrimination issues because the Metro is currently experience a mandatory civil rights review by the federal government.

Martinez hopes "that the federal government intervenes and forces [Metro] to correct their civil rights wrongs."


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