Who's In Charge Here?

(Based on my comments before the MTA board of directors on January 9, 2002. This rant also appeared on the MTA's Stakeholders site.)

Over the past five years, I have watched as MTA has struggled to meet what I believe are unreasonable demands from the BRU and the special master. Some of these demands are not achievable, even though they are contained within that document. Other demands appear to go beyond the scope of that agreement.

The constant demand for between 250 and 500 new buses cannot be substantiated anywhere in that document, and when both the BRU and the special master claim that those buses are necessary to alleviate overcrowding, they continue to show a lack of understanding of transit planning, scheduling, and operations. Recently, the BRU demanded eight additional buses to correct two instances of overcrowding on a line; this unreasonable demand shows that they believe they -- not MTA staff -- are in charge of this agency.

The consent decree calls for loading standards during peak hour that would be unachievable even with the addition of every bus the BRU demands. Ask any transit agency director in any metropolitan area to review those standards and they will shake their heads in disbelief. Yet the BRU would have this agency spend itself into oblivion trying to meet those standards and guarantee virtually every passenger a seat, even though in every metropolitan city there are standees on nearly every bus, every day at rush hour, and there always will be.

Here's a touch of reality: I have personally ridden Santa Monica Municipal Big Blue Buses at rush hour on Westwood Blvd. that have had so many standees between UCLA and Westside Pavilion that a Metro Rapid Line 720 bus on Wilshire Blvd. seems uncrowded!

Back to the subject of acquiring buses: The BRU and the special master have also tried to impose timetables for acquisition that ignores the realities of transit coach manufacturing timetables. This proves both their lack of knowledge about the public transportation industry and their wish for existence in a fantasy world where things are so simply by their stating it.

I also dispute that they truly represent the majority viewpoint of MTA's customers. They have attacked rail in favor of bus as a preferred mode of transit, yet the "people of color" they purport to represent appear to believe otherwise. In the San Fernando Valley, Line 156 on Van Nuys Blvd. is frequently loaded with Latino passengers destined for North Hollywood Station to ride what they happily describe as "El Metro". Less than one month ago, I rode the Blue Line from 7th St./Metro Center to Long Beach, accompanied by a So.CA.TA member; we were literally the only two white passengers! So if rail is "racist" it isn't in the way Eric Mann and his "organizers" make it out to be.

The past five years have proven that no matter what MTA tries to do to improve service, the BRU will always demand more. It is obvious they believe the consent decree is their mandate for total control, and nothing short of the Supreme Court can make them believe otherwise at this point.

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