By Leilani Albano

Just when Los Angeles bus riders thought Metro couldn't be any worse, the MTA board — politicians who've been outed for rarely taking a bus — declared they'll wipe out five Rapid bus lines, three local lines and slash service on others.

Bottom line: 270,000 hours of bus service disappears, a blow to house cleaners, day laborers, janitors, substitute teachers, young people, waitresses, shop clerks and thousands who don't own cars and are desperately seeking work.

“We're going backwards,” says Bus Riders Union organizer, Eric Romann.

How ironic, to see the Metro board closing bus lines used by the poor in South L.A.

This is the same board of politicians that's pushing forward on its $9 billion Subway to the Sea. The Weekly and Los Angeles Times have both reported the Purple Line subway will be used by so few people it will have no effect — well, .57% or less than 1% — on reducing Los Angeles traffic, yet it was supposed to greatly relieve congestion. (See the Weekly's story here.)

Reseda resident Tyrone Harris, who relies on buses for daily life, could say only: “Times are hard enough. Cutting bus lines makes the journey harder.”

Although Metro will increase services on some local lines, the deep $30 million slash is the largest single cut since Metro was forced into a federal decree for failing to serve low-income minority communities.

Bus lines will vanish in Pasadena, Universal City, South Los Angeles and Southeast LA. Incredibly, three Rapid lines and two local lines were eliminated, and three others saw services reduced, just in South and Southeast L.A.

Bus officials insist they had no choice, facing a $250-million deficit.

Romann, of the Bus Rider's Union, declared, “What we're seeing are the conditions that led to the consent decree in the first place.”

Metro was placed under federal consent decree from 1996 to 2006, following a class action civil rights lawsuit brought about by the bus rider's group against Metro, then called the MTA.

In the suit, the bus riders group charged Metro with violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by establishing a discriminatory and unequal transportation system while using federal funds.

The cuts come on the heels of Metro's politically controlled board having just approved punishing, controversial increases in bus prices.

So under the current leadership, prices have gone up, and service is being slashed.

Bus fee hikes took effect in 2007 and again in July. A daily pass doubled, from $3 to $6, and the monthly pass jumped from $52 to $75 dollars. More hikes are coming.

“They're squeezing riders on both ends,” says Romann. Metro is “making them pay more for less.”

Officials with Metro say they are trying to minimize the cuts' impact by focusing on bus lines that are least utilized.

Yet they chose to wipe out several bus lines that cut through South LA and Southeast LA, where jobless rates are stratospheric.

Romann says cutting service in South and Southeast Los Angeles is akin to Metro solving “their problems on the backs of the poor.”

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