Letter to the editor, Daily News, October 6, 1998
(Portions of my original letter omitted from publication are highlighted in underlined italics.)
Your article's headline says it all: The politicians who claim to be looking out for the best interests of Valley transit users are "plotting" to remove the only bus lines in the Valley the Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates profitably. Councilman Alarcon said as much when he asked, "Can we grab greater control?"
This is more a power grab designed to give politicians more feathers for their caps than it is a desire to improve bus service.
The fact is, the lines city transit manager James Okazaki identifies as the ones that make the most sense for the zone to operate are the high ridership lines that, with their ridership, essentially pay for the low ridership lines that are needed to flesh out a full transit system. It is obvious that these lines are being chosen to try to meet the 25 percent savings in operating costs necessary to get a zone approved. The politicians know full well they can't achieve those savings -- especially since they would have to honor MTA's existing contract with the bus drivers -- with the lower-ridership lines, so they leave those for the MTA to struggle to continue to operate.
It's too bad the politicians never bother to ask the transit users what they want, because they would be surprised to find that users want a system operated by a single transit provider. This hasn't changed since the early 1960s, when a patchwork of small transit systems was combined by the state Legislature into MTA's predecessor, the Southern California Rapid Transit District. 35 years later, the politicians appear to want a return to those days of localistic transit -- further crippling MTA in the process -- by balkanizing our regional system into smaller, harder-to-transfer-between, systems.
This proposal is timed to take control as soon as the beginning of 2000, which makes it impossible for MTA to complete the implementation of the San Fernando Valley Transit Restructuring Plan, begun three years ago and scheduled to have its final elements implemented when the Red Line comes to the Valley in June of that year. Why, if the politicians are so concerned about transit improvement, can't they wait until the MTA is able to complete the improvements that are already planned and then see if they can do better?
I trust Alarcon and the other elected officials who attended the October 1 meeting less than I trust the MTA board of directors; the latter have at least been listening to the people who ride the system, which is more than I can say for the zone proponents, who are operating in a "we know what's good for you, why should we bother asking what you want?" mode.
We need improved transit service, not more politics.