The cuts just keep coming for the lurchy, unglamorous Los Angeles bus system. In fact, if Metropolitan Transit Authority officials keep goin' like they're goin', we're unlikely to have any bus system at all a few years out.
Then again, maybe that's the point.
Of course, the L.A. Bus Riders Union, which has thrown everything it has into preventing this slow gassy death of a working-class institution over the last few years, is in disbelief.
The MTA proposal, posted yesterday, cuts the following bus lines altogether:
Metro Westside/Central: 26, 757
Metro San Fernando Valley: 183, 634
Metro San Gabriel Valley: 176, 485
Metro South Bay: 209, 247, 450, 757
Notice how most routes are cut from South L.A., where they're needed most? Yeah, well, might as well say R.I.P. now.
But that's not even the beginning. A mind-numbing tangle of stop eliminations and route cuts make the already inconvenient bus system -- mostly due to the last round of sweeping cuts in December -- into an expensive puzzle that no workaday commuter deserves to have to figure out.
The new numbers, as reported by the BRU (they counted 11 zapped lines; we couldn't find the 11th):
- 11 lines to be completely eliminated -- including the Rapid 757, which takes people from Hollywood deep into South Los Angeles
- 5 lines will suffer elimination of weekend and or midday service
- 8 lines will get their routes truncated, forcing folks to transfer more, which could mean pay more
- 3 lines will be slowed down to hourly service, which means by the next "shake-up" they will be eliminated for being inefficient
What's the likelihood these next five public hearings -- beginning tonight at 5 p.m. in the Metro Board Room -- will change the MTA's mind? Slim to none, says lead BRU organizer Esperanza Martinez. During the input period for the December cuts, the original proposal changed in only minuscule ways; all major cuts were enacted despite panicked comments from riders.
The disregard is no surprise:
L.A. politicians build their campaign reputations on hip subway projects that cost billions more than bus improvements, but look mighty fly on constituent mailers. The New Yorky charm of a fast, (relatively) clean rail system -- though there's no way it could reach into neighborhoods of nannies and gardeners and cooks, to the homes of their employers, anytime in the near future -- is too irresistible for Angelenos with options to wipe off their wish lists.
The most famous is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's pet Subway to the Sea line, which will cost $9 billion all things considered and only budge the Purple Line a few measly miles west. (Note: It won't actually relieve traffic.)
MTA operations staffers attribute the latest "modifications" to maintaining "efficiency" within L.A.'s public-transportation system.
"We were enraged," says Martinez. "They're no longer talking about a deficit."
She says the BRU feels that after the MTA Board of Commissioners makes their cuts, then "when they come back six months later to review the efficiency, they themselves have created inefficiency."
Because if you cut all convenience out of the bus system, riders will inevitably dwindle.
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After the last set of cuts, the BRU filed an administrative complaint to the Federal Transit Administration. *Crickets*
"When you eliminate people's primary mode of transportartion and further exaserbate people's access to employment centers, education centers -- that in and of itself is a violation of civil rights," says Martinez. "People are not able to access basic, fundamental needs."
If the cuts go through, the MTA will have sliced 70 percent of the 1.3 million bus service hours that existed in 2006.
We'll keep you updated as we speak with MTA officials.