Letter to the editor, Daily News, September 1, 1998

The position taken by the Bus Riders' Union, as espoused by their spokesperson Rita Burgos, is so riddled with inaccuracies and wishful thinking as to make one wonder how they maintain any kind of credibility in the ongoing discussions about our county's transit needs.

The union constantly refers to the consent decree between itself and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as the basis for their various demands. Having read the text of the decree, which is readily available at the NAACP's web site, I would like to address the issues raised by Burgos in your article.

The 1,600 buses the union demands the MTA purchase are mentioned nowhere in the consent decree. This is, in fact, a new demand made of the agency based upon the union's perception of how many buses it believes are necessary to lower the number of standees to the decree's mandates.

The decree specifically calls for an increase of 102 buses in the agency's total fleet.

Further, the decree does not give the union -- or any passenger, for that matter -- the right to refuse payment of fare if seats are not available. Payment of fare is widely recognized within the public transit industry as being for transport only. It does not guarantee seating -- not even on Metrolink, which the union uses as the focus of their frequent attacks on rail transit.

While we are on the subject of load factors -- the ratio of seating to number of standees -- the consent decree-defined rush-hour load factor of 1.2 expected to be achieved by June 30, 2002, is so out of line I am amazed the MTA agreed to it.

No metropolitan public transit system has that kind of ratio, and the amount of money that would need to be spent on equipment to achieve that goal would put the MTA into bankruptcy faster than any rail project.

Finally, there is no way for MTA, or any transit agency, including the much-touted transit zone, to acquire 1,600 new buses in the space of two years. There are fewer than half a dozen manufacturers of transit coaches in the United States, and all of them have a delay of 12 to 24 months from the time an order is placed until the bus arrives, ready to be painted, outfitted with a farebox, etc. The union makes its most unreasonable demand when it insists that the MTA acquire that much new equipment almost immediately.

The Bus Riders Union has forced some improvements for the benefit of MTA passengers. The rollback and the freezing of fares and passes at 1993 levels are laudible. But the union is not sufficiently knowledgeable about transit operations to try to set MTA policy, and the "fare strike" is evidence of that lack of knowledge.

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