Just The Facts, Charles

(Rebuttal to a letter in the Daily News from Charles Thomas, criticizing my op-ed article of August 8, 2002. An edited version was published by the Daily News on August 20.)

Mr. Thomas certainly has the right to disagree with me, but he also has an obligation to get his facts straight in the process.

First, the restructuring study he calls a "complete and utter failure" was not dropped by the MTA. In fact, elements of it were updated in a report to the MTA board of directors in 1997 and parts of it were considered for inclusion in the bus/rail interface plan of 2000. As I pointed out in my article, the restructuring study's implementation was frozen by the transit zone application, since the Authority's guidelines mandate that no major changes to service be made (other than around already scheduled rail service expansion) in an area where a zone application is pending.

Second, his claim of "important bus service" being removed is without merit. The changes implemented before the freeze largely combined existing lines to link north-south service with east-west, and only about five miles of service was removed with no replacement (approximately 2.5 miles on Sheldon St., one mile on Osborne St., and the remainder in the Sepulveda Dam basin).

Third, I take personal offense at his statement that I "have shown very little to offer in the way of bringing better bus service to the Valley." I contributed significantly to the original study in 1994, and have produced two detailed updates, with maps, for MTA planning staff since then. I was also consulted by staff in the aforementioned bus/rail interface of 2000.

By contrast, Mr. Thomas has attempted on numerous occasions to put forward his own plan for the reorganization of service, with little or no supporting documentation of his proposals. The last version of his plan, shown to me by MTA staff, spent a considerable amount of verbiage in an attempt to have the Vineland Avenue bus line discontinue its three-block detour serving North Hollywood Station.

I do not claim to have all the answers; in my original article I only advocated that the study be revisited and suggested that it would require revision. However, Mr. Thomas does claim to know what is best -- without showing why -- and attacks anyone who would have a differing solution from his own.

If the Daily News is going to publish replies to my articles, I would like the respondents held to the same standards of fact that I am held to. Responsible journalism demands that adherence to fact.

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