Muddying The Waters

Those self-described protectors of low-income transit-dependent citizens, the Bus Riders Union, are once again using their own brand of smoke and mirrors to make it appear that they are right and Metro is wrong.

You see, ever since the consent decree expired some five years ago, the BRU has found itself trying to defend the lines that were created under the decree but which have turned out to be, shall we say, somewhat less than productive. The latest one of "their" lines to find itself on the chopping block is Line 305, which is scheduled for cancellation simultaneously with the opening of the Expo light rail line this summer.

The Westside/Central and South Bay Service Councils both voted to eliminate the line, which meanders between Westwood and the Imperial/Wilmington Blue Line station on a route which overlays parts of no less than 12 Metro local lines -- and a few Rapids as well -- because the relatively few passengers the line carries could ride a combination of the lines it duplicates to get to their destinations. But, since the BRU has been reduced to condemning the Metro Board of Directors for "undoing all of our gains under the consent decree" (like the Board should care about the BRU's gains) they weren't going to stand by and just let this happen! No, they filed a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration that led to Metro being included in a group of 30 "randomly chosen" agencies that were audited for compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The audit led to a revision of the considered impacts of cancelling Line 305, and to no one's surprise the line remains scheduled for cancellation.

So the BRU did the other thing they do well ... they went to the Los Angeles Times and coerced one of their reporters to do an article on the Line 305 cancellation, in which one of their organizers said Metro should "shift funds from rail, highway and other county transportation efforts to preserve service." And therein lies the muddying of the waters.

As I pointed out in a letter to the editor that appeared three days after that article, it has never been as simple as the BRU makes it out to be. Money that is allocated by Sacramento and Washington for construction projects is a different "color" (capital) than the money that can be used to actually run buses and trains (operations). And in the entire 15 years of the BRU's existence, they have refused to accept that reality, instead continuing to promote their own false statement through the media that the money is all one color and that if Metro would stop building things they would have a huge amount of funding to run more bus service.

If it isn't a deliberate attempt on their part to confuse the uninitiated, then it means that in all the years they have been around either they never learned this (making them incredibly stupid) or refuse to accept the reality of this (making them incredibly delusional). I have to presume that they are neither stupid nor delusional, so that makes them liars. And I have to ask why, if they want transit agencies to have more operations-eligible money, they haven't lobbied the lawmakers to make more funding eligible?

As the character of Jim Hacker in the BBC comedy "Yes Minister" once said: The question is purely rhetorical.

(For those interested in a more comprehensive explanation of public transportation funding, we provide one in layman's terms here on the Transit Insider, called Transportation 101.)

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