MTA To Cut Nine L.A. Bus Lines By Dec. 12

Updated after the jump: The Bus Riders Union says the latest bus cuts are straight-up racist. Originally posted at 11:19 a.m.

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pumps all time and city resources into three more stops (12 more minutes) onto the west end of the Metro Purple Line, part of his $9 billion Subway to the Sea pet project -- which won't actually relieve traffic -- the Metropolitan Transit Authority is pretending it's so desperately scraping for funds that nine bus lines are on the chopping block.

That's 388,000 hours in bus time.

From Dec. 12 forward, five Metro Rapid lines and four local lines will cease service. Several other lines will see giant reductions as well, such as only running one-way. For the full revised schedule, which was announced today, click here.

Lines to be cut completely include the 715 (LAX City Bus Center--Downey via Manchester Ave, Firestone Blvd) and the 920 (Wilshire Rapid Express). The rest: 168, 214, 608, 626, 711, 714 and 920. Saturdays and Sundays, predictably, are almost completely bare-boned.

Worst part is, the cuts will only save a total of $30 million per year. Currently, the MTA claims to have an operating deficit of $250 million.

Who will be affected? Certainly not the Metro staff, who don't even use their own public transportation. And certainly not the spare few (whiter, wealthier) riders of the Metro rail lines, which have the support of L.A. politicians and idealists who want L.A. to be New York (but really love their BMWs and probably wouldn't take the subway anyway).

Metro spokesman Rick Jager told Our Weekly that officials tried to spread the damage as evenly as possible throughout the county, altering the routes of some surviving lines to partly make up for the eliminated stops.

"Basically, what we've tried to take a look at was ... that there was nearby service within a quarter of a mile walking distance so that people would not be stranded,'' Jager said.

According to Our Weekly, Jager has no idea how many people would be affected by the cuts. Of course, he was quick to whip out the deceiving statistic that there would only be a 3.7 percent reduction in bus-service hours. But we're talking about Los Angeles County here. This place is massive.

Five months back, Metro raised its fares to collect an extra $24 million. Of course, that cost monthly-passers $52 $23 more per month (the pass rose from $13 $52 to $75). Single rides went up 25 cents to $1.50. But because fares only provide for a quarter of bus and rail costs, MTA is now making the Dec. 12 cuts out to be a necessary evil.

The ever-angered Bus Riders Union of Los Angeles isn't buying it.

When the MTA board originally approved the sweeping cuts in September, BRU organizer Eric Romann says it wasn't a question of deficit, but of "priority and political will."

He cited $150 million that MTA received from the state this year after they complained of rising debt, and a hefty new sales-tax earmark they were granted two years ago.

"We're outraged that the MTA is cutting bus service for people who use the bus -- overwhelmingly poor, colored people in the city," Romann says. "If you call the MTA, they're going to say there's a deficit. But somehow, there's hundreds of millions for highway and subway expansion."

Update: Esperanza Martinez, lead organizer of the BRU, says the MTA board's choices have a "racially discriminatory impact."

"The rationale that they're giving is they're unproductive lines, but they never gave them sufficient resources to allow for them to flourish in the first place," says Martinez. She adds that Metro Rapid lines don't run nearly often enough for people to rely on them, and often break down -- something the MTA hasn't even looked into.

The lines that the board most recently cut include the 714 along Beverly Boulevard, a largely working-class community, and the 711 in South L.A., where residents are predominantly Black and Latino.

Martinez points out that MTA CEO Art Leahy went so far as to admit, back in September, that these cuts are not about a deficit. "He said this was about efficiency -- where they're going to get the biggest bang for their buck," Martinez remembers.

Which doesn't really make the popularity of ridiculously expensive subway lines any clearer. Martinez calls Villaraigosa's Subway to the Sea a "major boondoggle project" -- a political legacy that's "flashy, appealing to people."

Why isn't L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, at least -- who oversees much of the poverty-stricken L.A. area the cuts will affect -- doing anything to stop the MTA? Because he's got his own pet subway to worry about: the Crenshaw subway, which wouldn't reach a fraction of the locations serviced by Crenshaw-area buses, and is already running a $5 million bill.

Thing is, subways in a county this gigantic are really only useful for avoiding congestion and not having to sit next to freaky bus people. The latest cuts hurt those who need public transportation the most. According to Martinez, about 90 percent of bus riders are people of color who make around $12,000 a year -- "so you impact some of the poorest people in the county, historically oppressed people."

"We really believe that the people who are transit-dependent, the people who navigate their entire lives on public transportation, should be the priority," she says.



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