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Then why...

by James Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 at 11:58 PM

... does the BRU not support usage of articulated buses, which have more capacity than regular buses (60% more)? Articulated buses reduce overcrowding and bus bunching, because fewer need to be run. Despite BRU's claims, there are bus routes that are scheduled to operate every 90 seconds (Line 66 in the morning from Pico/Union to the East LA factories). Bus bunching is endemic on this line, and higher capacity buses would enable less crowding while reducing congestion and simplifying service.

... does the BRU not even acknowledge Rapid Bus, which has greatly speeded up service in many areas, offering transit times competitive with the auto? In fact, they have griped that this service is replacing local service, when it has not. A passenger can choose from rapid bus for faster service or local bus if they want to save a walk, all at the same fare.

... does the BRU keep its mouth shut about projects like the Harbor Transitway that have wasted billions of dollars on a double decker freeway through the inner city? Not made the critique of highway projects like the I-710 extension through El Sereno? (To be fair, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a BRU partner, has been leading the El Sereno residents and they settled in regards to the freeway construction.)

... does the BRU oppose divestiture of outlying services operated by MTA that do not get many riders? Not supported contracting out work, even when drivers are given a fair wage (because of a bill signed by Gray Davis that requires private agencies, when they take over a service area, to pay at existing wages or higher).

... does the BRU mislead the public about its background? The BRU, according to legal documents filed, is funded by sources including the Turner Foundation, Ben and Jerry's Foundation, and other sources. Eric Mann once was an auto industry organizer, and supported union policies that expanded auto ownership among Americans. It is not an indigenous grass roots organization, fromed by users. Rather, it was a PROJECT of the Labor/Community Strategy Center.

... does the BRU act as a monolithic organization, suppressing dissent among its ranks? Rank and file members do not have a say. Organizational tactics are well planned out, but that represses people who may disagree with BRU positions on, say, rapid bus, or busways, which do speed up transit times. (BRU is against all capital projects that may speed up buses. They were displeased with Rapid Bus, and have in the past come out against the Exposition and Chandler/Burbank busways.)

... is the BRU woefully misinformed about basic transit in Los Angeles? They put out a flyer about their express bus proposals, called "Want to go to Disneyland? Too bad." It stated that MTA did not serve Disneyland because of a lack of service in outlying areas. Trouble was, MTA, and its predecessor, RTD, have been operating bus service to Disneyand and Knott's Berry Farm almost since when they opened. Line 460 operates every half hour to every hour there, and is jointly subsidiezed by Orange County and LA County. The BRU was ignorant of this line, and knowledgable riders made laughingstocks of them.

... proposes service that is woefully underutilized? Under the aegis of the BRU/MTA Joint Working Group, they proposed a package of pilot bus lines designed to take people to where they wanted to go. The only problem was no one wanted to go there. Extensions of a route to Orange County, a shopping center (already served by another line), weekend service on a minor line, and express bus service from San Pedro to West Hollywood all got low ridership. The first three were discontinued because of it, while the fourth may be restructured to go to Downtown rather than passing a mile away from it. BRU has proposed express line from Panorama City to East Los Angeles and El Monte to Norwalk, which transportation experts have said will not get an average of even 10 riders per trip. (To be fair, there are some successful BRU lines. However, the reason they are successful is not that they are serving particular markets, it is because their fare is lower. 218, 603, and 605 are successful because they charge 85 cents less than the base MTA fare. Line 422, a reverse commute express bus from Downtown to suburban Ventura County, is well used, but only because it undercuts the MTA base fare by .45. Meanwhile, they object to cutting the service that has been duplicated by the pilot lines.)

... not made themselves regionally active? Planning organizations like the Southern California Association of Governments control funding plans, because the purchases scheduled for the next five years that require federal funds are in the plan. BRU chooses not to get involved in SCAG, although some of their partner organizations, like the NAACP LDF, EDF, and KIWA, do. Members of the Auto Club and Metrolink, among others, serve on an advisory committee that was open to all participants when it was formed in 1998. The process, despite BRU's complaints, is reasonably democratic, and the advisory committee is listened to by SCAG. The BRU did not comment on the Regional Transportation Plan advanced by SCAG in 1998, either, although a whole host of individuals and groups did.

... have they not educated themselves about public transit history? For instance, they proposed an express bus system using freeways in lieu of rail. The problem is that RTD decades ago created limited stop service because running on the freeway is too dangerous and does not provide that many benefits. Limited stop service is often faster than the freeway bus service it replaced, since Los Angeles motoriss often don't think of surface streets as a viable means of getting somewhere. In addition, "transit centers" would be created in places that have never supported transit, and propbably never will. However, BRU feels perfectly educated on issues that are tangential to transit, such as China's admission to the WTO.

... do they not take advantage of internal means of communication? As far as I know, no BRU member is on the Passenger Advisory Committee in every bus operating division. MTA officials listen to PAC members more than outsiders who simply shout and protest at board meetings. The PACs has made many substantive suggestions to public transit, such as enforcing cleanliness and making sure that buses wait at the "lineup" timed transfer in the late evening and early morning hours.

... shout the public down who may have a different opinion than they do? At an MTA board meeting, for example, a citizen who felt that rerouting and reoganizing bus service in the wake of the Red Line opening to North Hollywood was appropriate was heckled and called disparaging names. She was insulted by them, even though she was not an employee of MTA, nor a "plant" to say what they wanted. I, for one, think that the BRU should respect the public that disagrees with them, and not insult them and talk over them.

The BRU has made important accomplishments to public transit in Los Anegeles. They helped stave off the elimination of the monthly pass, of cutbacks in weekend service, and have compelled MTA to reduce overcrowding, for instance. But, they have accomplished their task. It is now time to move on. Buses are not overcrowded anymore, and if they are, the smart rider knows to wait a few minutes, because that bus is probably late. (Indeed, the standard that BRU uses to determine overcrowding is dubious, at best). Now they are demonizing those who formerly supported them, all because they support busways or other capital improvements to transit. This action is not sustainable, and it shows, as they have become more and more shrill in their demands.


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