Friday, June 24, 2011

Bus service cuts begin this weekend; riders union livid

LOS ANGELES - Members of the Bus Riders Union called on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and members of City Council today to do what they can to restore some of the Metro bus service cuts that will go into effect this weekend.

The Metro board voted 7-6 in March to approve cuts to the bus system, including eliminating five weekday routes and five weekend routes. Others will be shortened or run less frequently. The total cuts amount to 305,000 bus line hours, or about 4.5 percent of the total bus system.

Villaraigosa voted to oppose the cuts in March and said today he would take up the issue of bus service when he becomes chairman of the Metro board July 1.

"It wasn't so much that I was opposed to those particular cuts. It was that I didn't think the agency had sufficiently evaluated what three years of consecutive cuts is doing to the quality of our bus service," Villaraigosa said.

Metro argues that it is better matching capacity to demand, and in some cases the transit authority is adding service to routes or using bigger buses to accommodate more passengers. It is also increasing the frequency of the Silver Line, a rapid bus line that runs on the Harbor (110) Freeway from Artesia to downtown, then heads to the San Gabriel Valley, ending in El Monte.

"These policies have put a tremendous burden on low income people and people of color who rely on the bus to get around," said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer with the Bus Riders Union.

The union filed a complaint with the

Federal Transit Administration civil rights office, which plans to conduct an on-site review of MTA bus operations in mid-July. Today the BRU asked for the council to pass a resolution opposing the bus cuts.

The cuts include lines from San Pedro and Mid-City to downtown and a line from Westwood through the San Fernando Valley to Lake View Terrace.

In every instance, the cuts were made because of duplicate bus or rail service within Metro, redundancies with other municipalities' buses, or low ridership, Metro spokesman Rick Jager said.

Jager said Metro will also use about $9 million of the savings from the cuts toward better maintenance of its bus fleet.

Crystal McMillam, a bus rider and a BRU member, said the cuts mean extra transfers for her ride from downtown to Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, extending her hourlong commute another half hour.

McMillam accused Metro of doing a poor job of notifying bus riders which routes will run less frequently and when.


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