Just Say "No" (to the BRU)

(Text of an e-mail sent to the Metro Board of Directors in response to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa agendizing a request by the Bus Riders Union to rescind an already-approved fare increase and hold a new public hearing. Subsequent to my sending the e-mail, Villaraigosa replaced his original motion with one calling for a special Board meeting about the new fares, but without a full public hearing and recission. The fare increase was allowed to go into effect July 1, as scheduled.)

I speak to you not just as a public transportation advocate and dedicated transit user, but as one of our agency's governance councilmembers.

I would like to call to your attention the recent APTA report on how the current economy has affected public transit systems nationwide:

The BRU, as you know, is demanding that the fare increase already approved by the Metro Board but delayed in implementation as a result of Measure R's passage be rescinded and a new public hearing held. It is my position that their demand is contrary to reality and the APTA report proves this to be the case nationwide, not just in Los Angeles County.

Our base fare is scheduled to rise by only 25 cents, which leaves Metro among the lowest fares in the country. Even nearby San Diego County will still be 75 cents higher after our increase takes effect. Therefore, if our fares are outside of reality it is not by being too high (as the BRU claims) but by being too low. Further, the freeze on discounted fares for seniors and students -- which the BRU claims, in part, to be fighting on behalf of -- will remain in effect as part of the same Board decision that has delayed this fare increase by a year.

Paradoxically, the BRU also continues their demand that we not reduce service, even as they seek to deny us the user portion of the funds needed to operate that service. I find their hypocrisy annoying, at best; as a governance councilmember I am one of our public officials responsible for voting on service changes and I would obviously prefer that any service reductions in the coming fiscal year be as minimal as possible. Even delaying the fare increase for a few months while going through the public hearing process jeopardizes that.

Finally, I remind those of you who were on the Board in 2007 that the last public hearing on fare restructuring became something of a long, drawn-out three-ring circus, with the BRU continually disrupting the proceedings by applauding those speakers who agreed with them and booing those who did not. Do we really want to go through that again, especially as our budget will likely demand that we still implement the scheduled increase?

As much as I appreciate Mayor Villaraigosa's desire to placate the BRU, nothing will satisfy them other than wholesale capitulation to their demands. The consent decree is over and they must not be allowed to have the perspective that they are in charge here.

I urge you all to reject their request for a new public hearing.

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