Letter to the editor, Daily News, July 15, 1998
(Portions of my original letter omitted from publication are highlighted in underlined italics.)

I note that the State Auditor's report brought out the usual conglomeration of "spokespersons" hoping to tie the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's woes to their political aspirations.

Nate Brogin, co-vice chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, quotes the sales tax issue and makes it sound as if a separate Valley transit agency is somehow tied to secession from the city of Los Angeles.

State Sen. Tom Hayden's spokesman, Rocky Rushing, manages to say the same things as Brogin but fails to explain why the Senator's bill was watered down while the report was being prepared.

Assemblyman Tom McClintock decries the "big, bad labor unions" as the stumbling block to giving the Valley any kind of autonomy. The only people that seemed to be missing were Supervisor Mike Antonovich, trying to use the report to support his constantly-revived freeway rail line proposal, and Councilman Richard Alarcón, trying to use the report to further his proposal for a Los Angeles City Department of Transportation-dominated transit zone.

No, there was one other voice missing: the voice of the Valley's transit users, the people all this political posturing would have the greatest effect on.

Do Brogin, Rushing, or McClintock ever use public transit? Have any of the various politicians and business people who purport to have the answer to the Valley's transit needs used it?

Managers of the MTA, despite the difficulties and faults created by its board of directors, solicit public input and use that input to improve service as best they can, given the financial constraints placed upon them.

As an example, look at the dozens of public hearings, held throughout the Valley, as a plan was formulated earlier this decade to restructure transit service.

The MTA is still making improvements, drawing upon the public input from those hearings, with the culmination to occur in 2000 when the Red Line begins operation to Universal City and North Hollywood. The MTA has also formed passenger advisory committees at the Metro Bus divisions that serve the Valley -- I am a member of the one based at MTA's Chatsworth facility.

Why is everyone so eager to rip the Valley away from the MTA when it is obviously trying so hard to make the service better, and involving its customers in that process?

I also take issue with the state auditor's conclusion that the northernmost segment of the Red Line be transferred to a Valley transit authority, as this shows his -- and his staff's -- ignorance of fact. All fixed-rail transit guideways are the responsibility of the MTA, by state law, regardless of whether or not they are the dominant transit service provider in the geographic areas. As examples, look at the Blue Line right-of-way, which has its southernmost section in an area where Long Beach Transit is the primary service; the presently-undeveloped Exposition right-of-way, which passes through Culver City Municipal Bus Lines' and Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines' territory at its western end; and the rail corridor between the Valley and Lancaster, used by Metrolink, but controlled by MTA even though all of the bus service in that corridor is provided by Santa Clarita Transit and the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.

As a transit user in the Valley, I resent politicians and business people trying to make decisions about the service that affects my ability to use it, especially when they so obviously know nothing about the subject. I do not know if I am in the majority or in the minority when I say I want the MTA to continue being the service provider here, but that is because none of the aforementioned "we know what's good for you" decisionmakers have made any extensive effort to see how those of us who ride the bus feel about the issue. And until they do, I reject their attempts to make changes on my behalf.

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