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Bus Riders Union hails federal civil rights review of MTA

March 17, 2011 |  2:35 pm

The war of words between the Bus Riders Union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority continued Thursday over a pending civil rights review of past and pending cuts to bus service.

The transit agency said the review would be part of a previously scheduled routine audit, but for the BRU, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income and minority transit riders, the federal review marks a significant milestone.

"This is the biggest break since we sued the MTA in 1996," said lead organizer Esperanza Martinez, who was joined at a morning news conference by representatives of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and some bus riders.

Martinez said service gains made in the wake of the 1996 lawsuit could be almost completely reversed by year's end if MTA officials move ahead with current plans.

As an example, she cited a proposed route cut on Arlington Avenue, with the suggested alternative of using bus service on Western Avenue.

"Do you know how far it is from Arlington to Western?" she asked.

The parallel streets are generally about five to six residential blocks apart.

The civil rights inquiry will be included in a regularly scheduled audit, one that already takes equity issues into account, said Marc Littman, a spokesman for the MTA.

He added that the some service cuts are unavoidable because of funding shortfalls, but that overall service has improved in many ways. Routes are better coordinated with each other and more buses are arriving on time, he said. The cutbacks include limiting overlapping, under-used routes that could be consolidated to spare and even expand resources within essential corridors, he said.

"The Bus Riders Union has a hard time grasping the dynamics of the changing transportation system," he said. "We're not abandoning the bus program, but we've got to integrate this system."

"We take it seriously," he said of the federal review. "And we believe we're in compliance."

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-- Howard Blume

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