Gloating, With Rhetoric

(Expanded from an unpublished letter to the Los Angeles Times.)

As the late President Ronald Reagan would say: There you go again, Bus Riders Union.

The BRU, in their post-election criticism of the defeated Measure J say that bus riders use the transit system in far larger numbers than rail riders.

Apparently it has never occurred to them that this is true only because Metro is still expanding the rail network to cover more of the region, and that as more miles of rail are built, there will be more rail ridership simply because of availability. Recent history proves that as new or extended rail lines come into service, the bus network feeds to and from those rail lines, and those passengers -- including Blacks and Latinos, who the BRU claim to be fighting on the behalf of -- are given additional, not fewer, options.

Of course, this is the same type of fact-skewing and rhetoric we have heard from them all along. In the days leading up to the election, their current "lead organizers" Eric Romann and Sunyoung Yang wrote an opinion article for Streetsblog LA in which, among other convoluted (and in places, clueless) statements they claim that buses are "the backbone of mass transit" in Los Angeles County. For an organization which claims to know enough about mass transit to be a credible voice in the debate, they are certainly out of step with reality by making that statement. It is common knowledge within the transit industry that regions large enough to have a rail service network use it as the backbone; as I said in the preceding paragraph, the bus network serves as a feeder to and from rail, to eliminate as much as possible the need for a passenger to endure a longer all-bus trip.

That "bus is the backbone" statement also reveals the BRU's own hypocrisy: They are infamous for using the Metro Purple Line to travel between their headquarters in the penthouse suites (did you know "grassroots organizations" could afford high-priced office space?) of the Wiltern Theatre building and Metro headquarters opposite Union Station, because the bus trip would take longer and require a transfer in downtown Los Angeles.

Oh, and they ignore the inconvenient truth that the final vote on Measure J, after all the vote-by-mail ballots were counted, was 65.06% in favor and 34.94% opposed. Well over half of those who voted said yes to extending the transportation sales tax for another 30 years. In light of that fact (the numbers come from the County Clerk's website), I have to ask the BRU: Since when does failing to achieve a two-thirds supermajority by less than two percent "force a change in the debate", as Yang gleefully claimed when interviewed by the Times?

Well, Sunny, I have news for you. The defeat of Measure J isn't going to change your organization's strained relationship with Metro, because it wasn't the overwhelming defeat you wanted. The other reason is that you already had your chance to work with the agency on the allocation of funds back in the 1990s, before you sued them and got a ten-year consent decree ... which you then proceeded to laud over Metro as if it had put you in charge of everything. You whine at Metro Board meetings that they don't listen to you. Why should they, after the way you treated them during those ten years? And your continued rhetoric that if Metro "stopped building rail lines they could use that money for bus service" perpetuates your lack of acceptance of the fact that funds allocated for capital project cannot be legally used for bus operations. That's state and federal law, and your position is further discredited by the fact that all of the rail projects currently in the queue are the ones approved by the voters when they passed Measure R in 2008. Perhaps you need to negotiate a consent decree with those 2,039,214 people.

You know, facts are wonderful things when not twisted out of proportion.

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